Life throws us many curve balls. One of them is our inability to face its end. Unless you’ve lived in a family where processing hard stuff is easy (and I don’t know many of those), you are, like most of us, terribly equipped to deal with difficult emotions. You don’t know how to comfort someone who is morning.
Comfort Words that Don’t Work
Do you cringe when trying to comfort someone who had just had a loved one died? Do you hate the culturally appropriate comfort phrases? You don’t feel anything about the phrases of sympathy that are just scratching the surface and have nothing to do with some close, more intimate connection to the person in pain.
For example, religious sayings such as “I’m praying for you and your family” may heal a religious person. But they can rub salt in the wound of an atheist who lives with the belief that no amount of praying has the power to make them feel any better.
Of course, it is the benevolent intention for compassion that matters in the end. Most people understand this when someone is trying to comfort them. However, it is a huge question whether you’ve genuinely helped them to dissolve the pain.
Indeed, you cannot possibly find yourself in another’s person’s shoes when dealing with life tragedies, regardless of how much you think you feel for them. Even if you have been in the same place, the personal subjective experience of a sad event is unique. Therefore, plain culturally accepted phrases are not the greatest support you can provide.
Why not, instead of focusing on the narrative of the comforting phrase, we focus on the emotion behind it?
Examples of Warm, Intimate Comfort Phrases
Sometimes, the best-expressed comfort is wordless. It consists of silence and physical comfort, such as a hug or a handshake. However, when you do need to use comfort words, here are some comfort words and sentences you can use to help someone who is mourning a dead person or another loss in their life.
These five examples contain a level of warmth, deeper intimacy, and a lack of pretense that goes beyond what we are used to showing when a person is mourning.
- “Please know that I’m here/there for you now.”
- “Maybe I don’t know how to choose appropriate words, but if you want, I can sit with you in silence.”
- “While I’m looking for the best words to make it easier for you, is it okay if I hug you?”
- “Can I just sit together with you and breathe together rhythmically?”
- “Here is a hand/a hug to warm you up.”
A great part of their heaven-sent appeal is vulnerability.
You will feel better when you express sympathy in this way because it seems genuine. It brings you in touch with your own difficult emotions and assures you that you can stand together with another person under dire circumstances and carry a part of their weight. Holding the space for someone who is mourning is best done with genuine, vulnerable, and deeply intimate comfort words.