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How best to comfort someone who's grieving?

Wednesday night my uncle died (mother's brother). Mom is a devout catholic. I am a devout atheist, which she knows and is fine with.

My question is, when someone is grieving, do you comfort them based on your beliefs or theirs? For example, I know it would give my mom great comfort to hear "He's in heaven with Gram and Grampa. He's watching over you now." but I don't believe that and she knows it. But saying "He doesn't hurt anymore" or something similar seems kind of...I dunno. Not enough for her? I want to give her the most support possible. She was very close to him and idolized him her whole life. Even though *I* don't believe in heaven, she does. So do I tell her what will comfort her based on her religion, even if it's not something I myself believe?

I'd love to hear all viewpoints. Thanks.

Answer Question

Asked by deadheadjen at 9:56 AM on Jul. 24, 2009 in Religion & Beliefs

Level 15 (2,241 Credits)
Answers (10)
  • oh you are very compassionate to have your beliefs but able to comfort someone according to their beliefs. I'd combine all you said - all those comforting words you just were trying to decide between. They're all things that are said to comfort those who believe and even sometimes those who do not. hardly ever does god not come up in death and grieving.

    Your tears your body language I'm sure will show your mom you acknowledge and support her beliefs even tho they're not your beliefs. I'm sorry for your family's loss.

    Answer by Anonymous at 10:03 AM on Jul. 24, 2009

  • Well you can always go with a combo statement like: "If there is a heaven, I'm sure Uncle is there."

    That way you don't seem like your faking it for her, but are still willing to talk in her language.

    Another thing people like is just good memories you have of the departed.

    Answer by mogencreative at 10:18 AM on Jul. 24, 2009

  • My grandpa passed away 2 wks ago. My family are devout Mormons, Im eclectic Wiccan(they ARENT ok with it LOL).

    I comfort them based on what they believe. So when I talk to my grandma I comfort her with what I know she believes happened to him,etc.

    However, it isnt stuff that comes up often. Mostly we talk about how she's hanging in there and that its ok for her to feel how she feels and not to let anyone pressure her into being ok now, now, now because her hurt is still fresh and she deserves time to mourn and adjust. We have some family members who feel she should be back to normal doings already and I just let her know its ok to not be and to give herself time.

    We talk about grandpa's life and legacy,etc. So churchy stuff doesnt come up all the time but when the spiritual stuff does I go with what I know they believe.

    Answer by Amaranth361 at 11:10 AM on Jul. 24, 2009

  • I would just say "Mom, you know I am here for you if you need anything - I love you and I am so sorry you are going through this". Sometimes something like that can mean more than anything else.

    Answer by jennijune_21 at 11:23 AM on Jul. 24, 2009

  • I wouldn't even allow religion to be a part of it.
    Your friend needs you to BE there for her. Regardles of one belief or another.
    Like I told someone else yesterday, the most important thing somone can do is let the person Be.
    What I mean by that is, if they need to be angry, let them, be a sounding board, if they want to cry be their shoulder. That is what my dear friend (athiest) did for me (Wiccan) when my aunt (chrisitan) died.

    Answer by Princessofscots at 12:02 PM on Jul. 24, 2009

  • I agree with Jennijune and princessofscots, your mom will hear the "comforting" words from others. I put it in quotes because, at least for me, they have become so clichet that they don't mean much. What meant the most to me when I lost my dad was people who just listened to me and let me feel what I was feeling.

    Answer by teamquinn at 12:51 PM on Jul. 24, 2009

  • Speaking as someone who has suffered great loss in my life the best thing you can do is listen and be there. The person grieving doesn't always want to hear "they are better now" or 'They are in heaven" etc.. While that can be comforting to many I have found that just having someone to listen to me when I wanted to talk, cry or just sit in silence was the best thing. But the most important thing is that when the services are over and everyone gets back to their "normal" routine, that is when your mom (or whoever is grieving) will need support the most. Just be the person who will listen and it will mean more than you will ever know.
    sorry for your loss as well.

    Answer by gms1029 at 1:18 PM on Jul. 24, 2009

  • Thank you ladies, for both your advice and your condolences. This has been very helpful.

    Answer by deadheadjen at 1:24 PM on Jul. 24, 2009

  • I would simply say, "I'm sorry. I know you're hurting. I can't imagine what you feel right now. If you want to talk, I'll listen."

    I was reading the book, "Life's That Way" by Jim Beaver. He writes about the grief process after his wife died and in there is a section about what he wished people that NOT said to him. In that section, he specifically wished people had NOT told him she was "in a better place" or "not hurting anymore" or "in heaven now", because although he knew all that, it didn't help HIM, who was the one left behind, to feel better. Instead, he wished people had just been willing to listen and let HIM talk about how HE felt.

    I know when I lost 2 pregnancies (not the same, but it is in some ways), those phrases made me want to PUNCH people in the face. HARD. And REPEATEDLY.

    Answer by geminilove at 2:05 PM on Jul. 24, 2009

  • revelation 21- 3,4 GOD would wipe away every tear

    Answer by lawla at 11:34 PM on Jul. 24, 2009

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