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comfort the bereaved
Reading Time: 5 minutes

It begins with the popular saying ‘It is well’; the rushed hand-typing of ‘So sorry for your loss’ so the bereaved do not count the persona as part of those who do not care. What about the ‘Oh dear, what happened, how did it happen?’; these are some of the cold theatrics displayed by Nigerians when a relative or friend is bereaved. But really, how do you console the bereaved?

Once, a friend told a story of how he lost his Dad and when it was announced on a WhatsApp group, someone typed ‘Sorry for your loss, be a man!’

Such are the actions of the disinterested, the haters, and sadly, the uninformed innocents who struggle on what best to type as a consolation to the bereaved.

The feeling of losing someone hurts even more because, in most cases, the loss is often unexpected and sudden, and no matter how much you cry or regret it, you can’t turn back the hands of time; they are gone.  

The fun moments, laughter, cheeky grin, shared ambitions, purpose and visions, silly jokes, bad habits, and even temper tantrums are all just memories to cling to now, sapped away by the cold hands of death.

Sometimes, the pain of the bereaved is the type of death – like the case of a fire outbreak, ghastly motor accident, a reckless stampede, robbery or stray bullets, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, or scenes where they were just victims of the circumstance. Hence, knowing the type of death affords a better insight into how you console the bereaved. The task is a very sensitive but crucial one.

The first thing to note, something most persons and even some psychologists fail to understand is – the culture and behavioural patterns of the geographical location play a great role in how to console the bereaved. For a bereaved Nigerian for instance, asking questions like ‘how’ or ‘why’ may upset rather than console.

Here are some key things to say and note when trying to comfort the bereaved:

  • Don’t overdo it:  when expressing your sympathy, you shouldn’t overdo it or react in a way that is uncalled for, or ask questions like “how I wish it didn’t happen to him,” “Why such a young person,” “He shouldn’t have gone out today” and so on…

Saying things like this would only remind the bereaved of his loss, rather than console them; also, saying things like “He shouldn’t have done this, or why would he do this and many more statements like that sound insensitive because nobody knows when they would die or have a chance to prevent their death,

  • Don’t be up in their space: As much as you feel sympathy and want to be there for them, don’t always show up in their space; give them some time to themselves, as this attitude would soon happen to be perceived as a disturbance.
  • Be sincere in your wishes: when trying to console a bereaved, be sincere in your wishes. Don’t say it yet when you do not mean it. Don’t just do it because others are doing it, your insincerity is often perceived by the bereaved, and it doesn’t serve as a consolation, but rather an unappreciated nuisance.
  • Learn to curb your curiosity: Occasionally, we are often tempted to ask whenever someone dies, what happened or how they died; it is pretty wrong because if the deceased died an excruciating death asking the suffering for those gory details does more harm than good, forcing the person to be constantly reminded of their loss which is not a very pleasant experience.

It is understandable that as human beings, we would want to have an understanding of what happened; it is expected; what you can do instead is ask a relative or an eyewitness about what happened instead, or wait till the bereaved is strong enough to tell their story.

  • Show more actions than words: In times like this, more than your words, your actions would go a long way, your support in cash or in-kind; because in cases like this, death often leaves a vacuum and most often incurred financial burdens to the bereaved, so your money would go a long way. The bereaved are often too weak to do anything, so you may want to do the cooking or dishes, or anything that they would ordinarily want to do but cannot.
  • Be Present and Listen more: Being there for them as a shoulder to cry and lean on comforts them and prevents them from falling into depression. Never underestimate the power of being there. And when you are there minimise the speaking. Your one or two words would trigger them to respond and perhaps lead the conversation. This helps them to get over the pain gradually.
  • Be Patient, you are not the victim: In truth, being around the bereaved can be frustrating, awkward, and even stressful. But remember that you are not the victim, they are. So be patient, that is what they need from you.
  • Invite them to do something they like to do: It could be something fun for them. So, invite them for that lunch, or that place they earn to go i.e. dinner at kappadoccia.
  • Look them in the eye and say IT IS GOING TO BE WELL: It is actually provocative to say it is well. That is a denial of the existence of the pain they feel. Do not do that. But a look in the eye shows sincerity. Then the words ‘it is going to be well’ acknowledges their state and provide hope. If they are far from you, mention their first name and type the words. It is much more helpful than the cliché ‘it is well.’

As a bereaved, there’s really no standard way to grief or cope with the loss of a loved one, it is often very hard, and no matter how hard you try, the pain is often never forgotten; in fact, one can say that the pain never goes away, you just learn to live with it as time goes by, hence the reason why whenever you recall the death of the person, the experience is still very fresh to you and feels very much like yesterday.

One of the ways to cope with the death is to accept the situation fully, accept that the persons go at a time we cannot control. We have no control over it. Look at history and see the mess bereaved persons made when trying to go back in time to control the situation or trying to prevent the situation in future. It comes back to the same sad truth – they are gone.

Relish in the moments you had with the deceased, put the emotions you feel into positive use. Erect memorial foundations if you can, mark the date of the death always to do something different and unique. Most importantly, remember that the deceased would not be happy to see the bereaved hopeless. No, the deceased would want you to move on.

DeCritic is the leading content, copywriting and PR agency in Nigeria and offers services to clients across the globe. We have writers from almost every part of the world. Have any writing or PR need? Better call DeCritic now.

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Emmanuel Okonkwo
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Emmanuel Okonkwo is a professional content/creative/copywriter; and a critic. He is a published writer internationally and locally; the founder and editor of DeCritic. He holds a bachelor degree in Philosophy & Communications; a diploma degree in Copywriting & Marketing; and others. Crazy right? He has worked for and written for some of the world best marketing agencies, influencers, blogs and magazines. He is unique, rational, fun, radical and balanced.

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