What to do when someone dies?

It is hard to know what the appropriate things are to say or do when someone dies.

So what can you do? What can you say? Let’s see.

What to say

  1. I am so sorry to hear that.
  2. You know you can talk to me, right?
  3. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.
  4. You know you are strong and brave.
  5. I know this is a difficult time for you.
  6. I am here for you whenever you need me.
  7. Did you have your meal on time?
  8. I don’t know what to say. There are no words.

What not to say

You definitely don’t know how a bereaved partner or parent or sibling or a child feels.

So, avoid saying these at any cost. These may look nonchalant to you as an outsider, but the sentences below are some of the worst and most painful ones you can say to someone who is grieving.

  1. Tell me, what happened? Or How did this happen?
  2. Everything happens for a reason.
  3. This is God’s plan or God calls for the purest souls sooner to Him.
  4. How do you feel? You must be feeling sad.
  5. Atleast your child is not suffering.
  6. Please treat my child as your child from today.
  7. That’s the worst thing that can happen to a child.
  8. This is the worst kind of pain a parent/sibling has to bear.
  9. Your life wouldn’t be the same again.
  10. Would you be trying for another child (read son) now?

What to do

  1. Listen. What most people need are patient ears, not a talkative mouth.
  2. Stay in touch. Visit or call them once a day, enquire about their well-being, ask if you can help in any way (groceries, food, medicines, presence). Occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, festivals can be especially hard.
  3. Give them time. People need ample amount of time to heal, as an individual and family. What they need are each other first. Try and give them the luxury of some quiet family time, with no one else around them.
  4. Share your memories. This may look like offensive to you, but people feel good when they hear good things about their loved ones. And if you have a special memory to share, do it. These are priceless to someone who is grieving.
  5. Be polite and considerate. No two individuals grieve alike. They may be quiet, cranky or dismissive too. Avoid being offended, understand their situation and try another way.
  6. Let them express. And crying can be a healthy part of that.
  7. Help them with errands. They are too shocked, stressed, exhausted and depressed by the circumstances. Offering them help with cooking, laundry, cleaning etc is a better way to show your concern. After all, actions speak louder than words.

What not to do

  1. Don’t be quiet. If you’re not sure of how to respond, call them, or send a text message atleast. Don’t keep mum.
  2. Don’t try to fix it. They can’t be replaced/brought back.
  3. Observe and limit your presence. There might be chances you are calling too frequently or visiting too early. People need time to heal.
  4. Do not force them to cry. There is no right way to mourn. You don’t know what they are going through and people can express their grief differently. It is completely OK.
  5. Avoid being all about yourself. Refrain from quoting similar instances of yourself or of others and expressing too much of how you feel.

Managing things during current Covid-19 pandemic

It is difficult to be physically present, hug or even spend time with that person. And at such times, there are other ways you can show your concern.

  1. Call or text them.
  2. Offer them help, like managing their outdoor responsibilities (shopping, servicing etc).

How do I know this?

I lost my brother 7 years back in a road accident. He was 19. The memories are fresh and clear, as if it was yesterday. That day, and the days that followed afterwards, were hell.

And as if that trauma was not difficult enough to handle, the rituals, the relatives, the friends and the society made it even more unbearable for us.

But I guess, it was not their fault either. Humans tend to completely ignore the possibility of a difficult life situation like death, and hence have no experience or knowledge of how to respond to them.

And when it comes to supporting someone who is battling the same, they remain clueless and throw at them whatever little wisdom they have.

I hope this guide helps you the next time when you intend to support someone the right way.

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