Listen, before I went through all of this compound grief, I was a dumb ass about saying things straight out of the can! I’m sure I said, “Stay strong”, or “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle”. I’m sure I even used the technique of trying to get the aggrieved to talk about something else, thinking that would get their mind off of their loss.
But, also, it was so I didn’t have to bear witness to their deep pain. I did not want to talk to the griever, I wanted to talk to the person I always knew as part of MY life, which did not include the less than capable messiness I saw before me at the funeral.
And, there are no rules, but please don’t pull out the book of platitudes. Grievers, people in deep grief or fresh grief just need you to listen. If you’re a close friend and you can do it, reach out. Prepare a meal, bring a bottle of booze, ask if you can just come over and watch television. And, if you have it in you, let the griever talk, talk about it all. Let them talk about the memories, the incidents leading to the death of the person, all of it. The griever is still trying to make sense of all of it, trying to get perspective on what has just happened. This applies whether the death was sudden and unexpected or a long time coming.
And, if you aren’t that close, what do you say? Just say sorry. When you don’t know what to say to someone in deep grief, just say “I’m sorry”. That’s all. That’s enough. That’s everything.