When someone close to you has something terrible or sad happen to them, it’s tough to know exactly what to do or say. The keys are to be specific, don’t dismiss or gloss over what’s happening, and always keep an open ear. Here’s what we mean.
In the video above, Marie Forleo lays out specific tips for when someone close to you gets serious health news, has a loved one die, or suffers another loss. Throughout all these sad scenarios, there are a few common do’s and don’ts.
- Do offer specific help. While telling someone to “let them know if there’s anything you can do” is generous, helping them and offering help in specific ways makes them more likely to take you up on your offer. Make a big batch of chilli and call them up saying you’ll be in their neighbourhood. Ask if you can drop the food off. Or maybe you’re shoveling your driveway so you’re bundled up and already have your equipment out, so stop by and clear theirs too. Tailor your suggestions to your strengths and the situation, but always try to be specific.
- Don’t dismiss or gloss over their experience. Platitudes like “He’s in a better place now” or “There’s a reason for everything” are easy to fall back on, but they have all been heard before, and even worse, they can be pretty insulting if you think about how you’d like to hear them if you were suffering. Instead, focus on letting them know how you feel, and that you’re there with them. Try “I’m always just a phone call away” or “I wish I had the right words, but please know I care.” And of course, if you haven’t had the same experience as them, don’t tell them you know how they feel because you don’t.
Of course, these won’t work in every situation, and the video above offers some more tips and specific ideas, but if you get nothing else from it, take these two pointers to hear the next time someone close to you is struggling or suffering and you’d like to help.
What to Say (and Not Say) When Someone Dies or Suffers a Tragedy [Marie Forleo (YouTube)]