It’s hard to know what people going through a loss really need, and even harder to know what to say to someone who lost a loved one. But according to the American Psychological Association, research shows most people can recover from loss if they have social support –so how can you give that to them? “I work with people in trauma, and grieving is a process that takes time,” says psychologist Dr Deborah Serani, award-winning author of Depression in Later Life. “The goal when talking to someone who has experienced an enormous loss is to express your heartfelt concerns in a way that doesn’t minimise, invalidate, or cause an emotional blunder.” Simply letting the grieving person know you’re there for them is most helpful. “Phrases like, ‘I’m here for you’ help grieving individuals feel comforted instead of directed,” Dr Serani says.
Knowing how to help in the days immediately after someone dies is difficult – but these approaches might help.