How do you truly comfort someone dealing with loss?

August 29. 2014. I still remember the date. I was 10 weeks pregnant and the excitement that filled my husband and I was indescribable. For the first time, we were going to see and hear the first signs that we were indeed having a baby. But as the doctor conducted the procedure, she gave indications that it was not good news. That’s when we knew that something was wrong.

The words that followed were a blur to me. The babies had not developed well. They were twins, but my body had stopped their development, and I was expected to have a miscarriage. For someone who had always dreamt of becoming a mother, it was a lot to digest, let alone accept. We went home and I cried my heart out to my husband not wanting anyone else to know but he and I. I was far too emotional to hear any advice. I did not want any of that.

Sometimes, we feel that the only way to comfort someone dealing with loss is to give words of advice. I thought words were the best option, too, until I had to experience a painful event. That was when I found 5 other ways to truly help someone who is going through heartbreak.

1.) Listen with Empathy

The same day that I wanted to lock myself in, and stay in bed was the day I realized we had an angel for a neighbor. Out of nowhere, a sister from the ward came to me and asked “How was your check up?” I wasn’t able to explain everything to her because of my tears, but she lovingly welcomed me into her home and let me cry my heart out. That moment I realized that in times of grief, you don’t need a lot of words, you just need someone who will truly listen to you with a desire to understand what you feel instead of telling you how you should feel. During that time, that sister’s hug, listening ear, encouraging smiles, and expressions of love and hope was enough to ease the hurt I was feeling.

The first step to understanding someone’s heart is to first listen, really listen. Let that person know they have a friend whose heart is with them, too. That gesture goes a long way.

2.) Speak when Necessary

The reason why listening is the first step to comforting someone is because when you listen, you understand their situation better, allowing you to know the words that you should speak to bring comfort. The sister who came to me did not speak a lot but her thoughts brought peace to me. A statement like “I may not know how you feel, but I know it’s hard. Please know I am here” can mean a lot.

Also, ask good questions. Good questions, or open-ended inquiry, can help you understand your friend better and can help them know that you are there for them. emphasizes the importance of good questions:

“When you invite your partner to share in this way, something powerful happens. Not only does inviting your partner to share help the conversation to flow, but it also gives you an opportunity to show your partner that you are interested in them.”

Letting someone know that you are there for them and are willing to help them get through is a great balm.

A hug to comfort someone.

A listening shoulder. We can comfort someone by giving a shoulder to lean on.

3.) Extend Help

No matter how difficult life is sometimes, people with sorrows to deal with can’t always express their need for help. Most often, people who deal with loss find it hard to do even small tasks. A great way to comfort a grieving friend is to extend help. Even the smallest actions such as cleaning their lawn, walking their dog, cooking a meal for them, babysitting their kids, or dropping by to talk can be a source of comfort. Who knows, by simply doing these things, you may have already become an answer to your friend’s prayer.

4.) Respect their Privacy.

It may be hard to believe for some, but when someone says “I just want to be alone,” they probably truly mean it. From my experience, I learned that alone time was necessary. I was able to work through my grief, and eventually, find peace of mind. If your friend wants to be alone, you can still offer gestures that they will appreciate like praying for them, or sending a thoughtful note. Although they may prefer to spend some time alone, they will eventually need company. How great it is for them to know someone is there when they’re ready to face the world again!

I know every one of us has to experience grief for great reasons. My gratitude for friends who listened, quietly served, and extended love to my husband and I is indescribable. They are indeed walking angels here on earth. My heartfelt prayers to the Lord were answered through them.

President Spencer W. Kimball once said,

“God does notice us, and He watches over us. But it is usually through another person that He meets our needs.” (Small Acts of Service, Ensign, 1974)

Yes, trying times will come to people around us and there will be moments when you feel like saying “I do not know how to ease their pain!” Of course, we do not all have the power to do that. But, there are ways we can comfort someone suffering from loss. And if we’re motivated by love and concern, we can extend peace, we can be their walking angels here on earth.