If you have ever have doubts about talking to someone you hardly know about a recent loss in their life, please think twice about ignoring the subject.
You may think you are doing the person a favor by not mentioning their loss or the name of the loved one that died, but it doesn’t really work that way.
Acknowledging is important and helpful to you, and more importantly, to the person experiencing the loss. It’s extending sympathy or compassion and even though it may be hard to do, it’s something that needs to be done. So take a deep breath, remind yourself that you an adult and proceed. Think about the person who is suffering rather than your discomfort. If the death has happened to someone you know well, perhaps you can give them a hug, say you are sorry that they are going through a painful time and listen to what they want to say.
If the loss has happened to a work colleague that can be tricky. But it is still just as important to acknowledge what has happened to this person. If you can’t seem to find the right words to say, then you can always give them a card with a short note.
To understand the bereaved person’s point of view, here is a short letter that someone who did not want to be named wrote to The Washington Post’s advice columnist Carolyn Hax:
“When I returned to work after my dad’s funeral, everybody avoided me like crazy. I guess they thought I would burst into tears if they even said hello. Who knows, maybe I would have. I felt so sad, so alone and isolated. His obituary had been e-mailed to everyone , so all details were known.
After lunch on my first day back, I slipped off to an empty conference room to collect my thoughts, and a man I only know marginally saw me go in. He came to me and started this conversation: ‘I was so sorry to hear about your dad. I didn’t know he was a music teacher! Tell me about him!’ I was so happy to have someone to talk to about him. We talked for about 20 minutes about my dad. Yes, I cried a little. But at that moment, that was what I needed so much.
After a funeral, everyone goes back to their lives, what they were doing before — and the family who has lost their loved one is completely lost and directionless. This man, who hardly knew me, reached out for just a moment and cared. I still run in to him periodically at work and can’t tell you how much his gesture, at that moment on that day, helped me to cope.”Psychologists often cite isolation as one of the main dangers while grieving. Reaching out can make a difference.