In All Things: Keep expressions of sorrow simply and heartfelt

      We’ve all been there. Standing in line at the funeral home, wondering what words could possibly be adequate to convey our feelings to family members grieving over the death of a loved one. Grief brings many intense feelings – sorrow, anger, hostility, guilt, depression, even physical pain, and it can be frightening to witness. Human nature calls us to shy away from such displays of emotion, all the while thinking “There but for the grace of God…” As we pull back from another’s grief, albeit unintentional, it leaves the other with feelings of isolation.

      It is exactly at these times when family members, friends and acquaintances need a friendly face, a warm hug and genuine words of comfort and support the most. Grief is an equal opportunity emotion and if it hasn’t yet arrived in our lives, we will all one day be on the receiving end.

      So what do you say or do when facing someone else’s loss?

      Most importantly, experts have found that simply being a presence for someone grieving a loss is a great kindness. A willingness to walk even a small part of this life journey with him or her can facilitate the healing process and help thwart feelings of isolation the person might tend to experience.

      One of the worst things one can say to someone who is grieving is “I know how you feel.” Even if you have suffered the same kind of loss, i.e. spouse, child, parent, etc., we don’t know how the other person is feeling. No one suffers grief in the same way; we simply cannot fully appreciate know how another feels during this time. Instead, try offering your own fond memory of the deceased or ask the bereaved to share a favorite memory with you.

      Don’t ask what you can do. Just do it! Shovel a sidewalk; mow a lawn; run an errand; take the kids to their afterschool activities. Wait until the day after the funeral and stop by with a bag of staples: fresh milk, eggs and bread. The week after the funeral, bring a casserole for dinner and offer to stay and eat with your friend.

      I recall a co-worker once relating the story of a friend who lost her husband at a young age. A couple of weeks after the funeral, my co-worker showed up at her friend’s door with a quart of chocolate fudge and another of caramel pecan ... with two spoons. As they sat together pigging out on the ice cream, tears that flowed soon turned to laughter as they both remembered the one they loved and lost.

      As Christians, we are tempted to say, ”Well, she’s in a better place now.” While true from a theological point of view, it does little to comfort the ones who would give anything to have their loved one back. We can, however, offer to keep the deceased, as well as family and friends in our prayers.

      We need to understand we can’t fix the loss, we shouldn’t try to minimize it and we certainly can’t explain it away. So what do we say?

      Shoving aside our own discomfort, simple and heartfelt is always best.

      “I’m so sorry.”

      “I’m here for you.”

      One of the best things I’ve heard said was by an elderly woman in front of me in line at the funeral home a while ago. “Life always ends but love stays eternal. What a precious gift he was to you and that is something that will remain with you for always!”

      In Jesus, we witness what his promise of eternal life truly means and that always brings up hope in the face of death.

      “In him, who rose from the dead, our hope of resurrection dawned. The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.” (Preface for Christian Death I)

      Debbie Bosak is the editor and general manager of Northwest Indiana Catholic Publications and a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Merrillville. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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