What to Say to a Grieving Friend Instead of "How are you?"
June 25, 2018
If you're grieving, the question "how are you?" is pretty miserable to answer. Whether we want to or not, most of us feel a pressure to respond with "great" even if we're anything but great. When I was going through a tough time, one of my best friends used a different phrase to ask me how I was doing and it was perfect. I felt acknowledged and invited to share authentically and now I often use it instead of "how are you."
The magic phrase is "What has this week/today been like for you?" It has the same intent to invite someone to share, but something about this different wording makes it feel more inviting to be like "well honestly, things aren't so great" if things aren't so great. It also is posed with gentleness acknowledging that each day is different than the next. I've found it really helpful because by swapping out a few words in the question, you can still easily ask your friend how they really are and invite an authentic response.
And if you're worried about how to reply when she shares her heart, let me free you of some of the pressure, because the key to good grief support is actually pretty simple. You don't need to give her advice or provide her with answers. You don't need fancy phrases or long awkward pauses or profound words. You just need to be willing to consistently listen and encourage her to share. Many women are verbal processors, so if you can give her a compasionate listening ear as she shares the same details of her story, you are giving her a beautiful gift. This blog post from a few years ago is a great resource if you need some more guidance.
And we'd love to hear from you! What phrases helped you during your loss? We'll be chatting about this on instagram later this week, so stay tuned!