Help Those Who are Grieving by Being an Active Listener
When someone close to you has a friend or family member pass away, you’ll want to let them know that you are there for them. Along with sympathy and remembrance gifts, simply being a shoulder to cry on can be a wonderful way to help them through their grief.
Some people will want to open up immediately and recite their Loved One’s life story in full detail, while others may take a little more time to share. Either way, when they do begin to speak, they will want to know that their words are being heard and taken to heart. That is why active listening from you is so important.
Active listening is a set of both verbal and nonverbal cues that lets the speaker know that you are paying attention. This way of listening signals to the person talking that what they are saying matters, and that you are understanding their emotions. You can practice active listening, and help to comfort the person who is grieving, in the following ways:
Give your undivided attention.
Put away your phone, turn off the tv, and focus on what the person is saying. It won’t be easy for them to share, especially if it seems like you are distracted by other things.
Keep eye contact.
Eye contact is a simple way to let the person who is speaking know that you are engaged and listening. Don’t let your eyes wander to the window, the newspaper, or anywhere away from them.
Consider your posture.
How you hold yourself says a lot about how interested you are in what the speaker is saying. Sit up straight, angle toward them, and do your best not to fidget.
Let them know you are listening by nodding along with the story and encouraging them to go on. You can ask thoughtful questions, as well. Just be sure that they are kind and appropriate for the situation.
Paraphrase and reflect on the story.
Once they are done speaking, show that you were listening and understanding by reflecting on the story with them. Talk about how nice the memory of their shared trip to all of the National Parks sounded or say how sorry you are that their lost Loved One will no longer be able to attend those family game nights they were so fond of. Be specific with the conversation, showcasing how carefully you were paying attention.
Withhold judgment and advice.
Right now, this person needs someone to listen as they grieve, not give advice or lay judgement. Keep your opinions to yourself during this time. If they outright ask for advice, try to see from their perspective and offer loving suggestions from your own experience. It is okay to say that you have no advice to give, as well, and refer them to another friend or therapist who could be of better help.
Being there for your friend or family member as they grieve is an incredibly kind thing to do. By listening to them, you’ll help them to know that they are not alone. This is a priceless comfort during such a difficult time. Thank you for supporting those you love.