Friday 18 March 2022

Talking to the Bereaved

One day this week, I had occasion to speak to two different people who were bereaved. One had lost a beloved son, and the other (unrelated) a beloved brother.  Like many people, I imagine, I was somewhat concerned: unsure how best to engage but sure that we should not avoid the topic.

By the grace of God (for there is no room for coincidence in my philosophy) I was just getting towards the end of Kathryn Mannix's excellent new book: Listen: how to find the words for tender conversations. And I discovered a short section, just three pages, on Advice from Bereaved People About Making Contact.

This was so helpful that I thought I would share the main points here, and encourage you to buy this excellent book (which I will review more fully once I have finished it). Mannix opens by making the point that Grief is not an illness, it is a response to loss. The grief will last as long as the loss does, and after a death the loss will last forever. (Or at least until the next life, I would add).

So here are the pointers that she has collected from the bereaved:

Please don't avoid us

You don't have to 'cheer us up.'

Say their name. You won't make us sadder by mentioning the person who died.

'How are you?' is too big to answer 

Practical help can be welcome

Remembering to check in is supportive

Instead of platitudes, just express kindness

It's awkward. We get that.

Help us to return to work and social circles

Listen to us

I found these extremely helpful; though how well I conducted the conversations is really not for me to judge.  But I am confident that simply by remembering, for example, to 'say their name' that I did better than I might otherwise have done.

If you think these are helpful, please share them widely, as I am sure that is what Kathryn Mannix would want.  And if you buy her book and value it (as you most certainly should) then share that widely too (and I am sure she would want you do to that, too!)


With thanks to Claudia Wolff for sharing her photography on Unsplash

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