Being with people who are grieving can be difficult because we really want to say and do the ‘right thing’ but are anxious about making a mistake. There are many ways to add to their pain and not many ways to relieve it. Showing our love and care for those we are close to is essential. I learned a lot about being with grieving families and friends from my mom and dad. They had no formal education in grief counseling or anything else, but they had a lot of common sense about supporting people in pain.
My parents brought me with them to funeral homes and homes as they visited and took food to the families. I saw how they hugged people in front of the casket and told stories both sad and funny about the deceased. I saw how they greeted and chatted with their friends and neighbors who were there to do the same things. We attended funerals and listened to my mom sing songs about heaven and walking the streets of gold.
Suffering, loss, and pain are universal, common, and daily. We interact regularly with suffering people, and there are no words that can change the event that caused the grief. The best thing is a warm presence. Words are not very necessary, but our presence is; a hug, tears, a pat or kiss on the cheek will say everything we need to say. When the community comes together to reminisce, hug, laugh, cry, and tell great stories to each other, the acute grief is relieved but never completely gone. The therapeutic power of ‘being there’ cannot be overestimated.