When someone passes away, those who suffer the most and the longest are the ones who are still alive. In most articles, you’ll read time and again that grieving is a long process, and it is. According to psychology, it is a non-linear 5-stages process that can start and end at any stage. How to Give Words of Comfort on Anniversary of Death.
Every anniversary of someone’s death, the wound opens up again and it is important to be there. This is why we have to be extra careful of what we say when this time comes.
Read on as we review the five steps, what to say in each of them and go deep into the DOs, the DONTs, and the whys.
Five good phrases with words how to Give Words of Comfort on Anniversary of Death
Among all the possibilities available, these are five sentences you can use regardless of the case. You should always accompany them with either a hug (if you and the other person are hug-friendly) or a sincere look to the eyes.
- I am very sorry for your loss
- He/she is still with us in our heart
- He/she would have liked us to remember him/her with a smile
- He/she was a great man/woman
- I feel your pain
How to Give Words of Comfort on Anniversary of Death. I feel your pain
Let’s take a look at some concepts that will help you understand better what that person is going through. Empathy is the best feeling when it comes to someone else’s loss.
What is grieving?
Grieving is a process that has been studied by many psychological theories around the world. Although each has an alternative take on it, they all conclude at the same point: it is a process. This process usually gets a five-steps division.
This division is not at all successive or ecstatic, grieving is a dynamic process that can start and end at any one of these steps and also take much more time in one than others.
This is to say that every person goes through a different grieving process. For example, it is possible that the members of the same family go through different processes over the same loss.
Let’s take a look at the five steps coined in 1969 by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying:
Stage 1: Denial and desolation
Denial is a self-defense mechanism that humans employ to make the initial shock of difficult news a little softer. In the loss, this might have the shape of this didn’t happen or they will come back. As a defense mechanism it works great to avoid people having breakdowns when they receive devastating news of any kind. However, staying in this state for a prolonged period of time can be damaging to the person and those close to him or her.
What to say to people in Stage 1?
To people in stage one, you have to be extra careful because they didn’t register any loss. How will you know if they are in stage one? Well, they will say things like He/she is not forgotten. To that, the perfect answer could be he/she is present in our hearts or Yes, he/she is here in the feeling. Try not to confront them with the truth; it’s not for you to do it and it can turn out to be a disaster.
Stage 2: Anger
Anger is a difficult feeling to manage for the person feeling it but also for those around him or her. The key thing to understand here is that this anger is not directed to a person, but it is a way of channeling sorrow.
The person that you are trying to give kind words to might be angry at the world and frustrated at being so angry as well. You might hear from him or her how he or she blames doctors, diseases and other factors for the death of a loved one. In fact, even if that person answers you with anger, you have to know that they are not really talking to you, but to themselves and loss.
What to say to people in Stage 2?
You will find it harder to communicate in these cases. The best way to go, in my opinion, is with empathy trying to break the pain with a good hug and a supporting word like I feel your pain. If they answer you in a bad manner, don’t get angry, they will apologize later on for sure.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Stage three is a delicate situation because it is the time of the if only statements. They can take the shape of if only I had listened or if only we would have acted sooner. These feelings are often accompanied by some sense of guilt like there was something they could have done to keep that person alive for longer. Whether this is true or not it is not for us to judge; besides, it is another defense mechanism to find an explanation to the void.
What to say to people in Stage 3?
If people in stage two are irritable and angry, people in stage three is the complete opposite, they are vulnerable and sad. You should go for something like he/she was a great man/woman and remember some scene that proves this fact. This will break the guilt scheme and put the focus back in the loss instead of what could have been done to prevent it.
Stage 4: Depression
This stage might involve some crying and also typical things like comparing the way they mourn or cry to others. Guilt in the shape of I am not crying enough or others grieve heavier than me. The people going through this phase suffer the void and, when you feel void, there are no words to describe it. Since language doesn’t make it that far, sometimes all these people need is a big hug and a pat in the back.
What to say to people in Stage 4?
While you are giving them that big hug, try to whisper everything is going to be OK into their ears. You can also go for He/she would have liked us to remember him/her with a smile and try to make them change their mood for a bit.
Stage 5: Acceptance
You can think of acceptance as the final stage of grieving and you would be right. The only thing you have to bear in mind is that it is not a stage that everyone reaches. Acceptance requires not only a long time but also some professional help to help those grieving actually getting there. In fact, many people get stuck in anger or denial for decades.
What to say to people in Stage 5?
In this stage, you can use a phrase like He/she was a great man/woman and look for a smile in remembering those who passed in their times of greatness instead of their lows.
How to Give Words of Comfort on Anniversary of Death
Selecting an appropriate poem
A nice touch would be to recite or pen a poem on a note. I suggest that you don’t use the same popular poems that are always used.
Instead, choose a suitable poem that truly reflects your relationship and is unique.
To help you with this I have a guide that contains over 250 poems and today you can get these for only $16.00. Just Click Here.
How to Give Words of Comfort on Anniversary of Death
We went through the different stages of grieving and now it is time to go through some more general tips that can help you cope with any and all scenarios.
Use your imagination
This is the number one tip in this case: use your imagination! If you show up with a handful of catchphrases people are going to think you don’t really feel what you are saying. If you turn the situation around, and someone who is close to you comes with an enter a generic grief phrase here kind of statement, you will feel them far and cold.
So, use your imagination and come up with a phrase tailor-made for the person you are talking to, especially if they are close to you.
If you knew the person, throw in some personal stuff
If you knew the person who passed away well, try to throw in some personal stuff. Beautiful anecdotes, nice moments, talents and other such memories can accompany your phrase like no other thing. The closer to a personalized comfort sentence you get, the more meaningful it’ll be for the person you are trying to comfort. Don’t be afraid to be too personal, it is what they need in that moment.
Is saying nothing worse than saying a common-place thing?
This is a good way to put into perspective what you should do in this kind of scenario. Sometimes, the fact of just being there means more than a million words. For some of us, the fact that the people who love us stop their lives to be physically present can mean the world. On the other hand, if you show up and hug this person from the bottom of your heart and then open your mouth to say something like I am very sorry for your loss, you’ll throw everything away in a nano-second.
So yes, saying a common-place thing is worse than not saying anything at all. As long as you show up and are physically present accompanying the hard moment of this person, you can remain silent and help them anyways.
Grieving is a long process and learning to say words of comfort on anniversary of death is something that can be useful for the rest of your life. Knowing the stages of grieving will help you understand what the other person is going through and hence, how to use your empathy to help him or her.
Don’t be afraid to be personal and more importantly: be there. Sometimes a gesture is worth a million words.