The dad of the girl that I love died some days ago. And I just want to make her feel better but I don't know the words, if I need to let her vent. I'm so cold talking with people about love because it's something that is hard for me to express.

The only words that I did say: "be stronger, your family needs you". Of course those words are harsh, because it isn't simple when someone that you love dies.

I don't want to know exact words to say, but how can I comfort her in this situation?

  • 2
    Hi and welcome to IPS! FYI I made an edit to try and clarify the question, please feel free to edit again if I made a mistake.
    – Em C
    Jul 3 '19 at 19:37
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    Welcome to IPS! Could you tell us more about the relationship you have with this person? It would really help people who will answer you. Also, if you know what relationship this person had with her dad, that would be useful to know. One last thing, how old is this woman you love?
    – Ael
    Jul 3 '19 at 19:45
  • Also, this question might be useful to you too.
    – Em C
    Jul 3 '19 at 19:47
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    For a first approach imagine how someonw might feel after getting told "be stronger" in that situation.
    – puck
    Jul 4 '19 at 4:15

Part of my training in seminary is walking through grief with others.

I'll start by saying this: everyone grieves differently. They have a different pace of walking through the stages, and show them differently.

I assume by your post that you haven't experience a loss close to you, else you would have more of an idea of what you needed.

I'll start with this: what most people need is presence. It's impossible to know what to do, but being there to listen and walk through their grief is the primary thing we learn to do. Listen to her talk about her father. If you knew him, share appropriate stories about him with her. At this point, don't contradict her; that can come later if at all. She needs you there to be with her.

Some things to avoid saying: "It's all for the best" "He's in a better place now" "It's all part of [whatever belief system you have] plan" "At least he didn't [X]" "Be strong" "You should (or shouldn't) feel [x] now" The best thing that you can say is "I'm sorry. I'm here for you and you really matter to me"

Then, pay attention to her cues. At this time, people are numb and need guidance. Help her by walking alongside her and help her with the decision-making process. There will be a bunch of those to make right now, and she and whole family are hurting.

Best wishes.


Some things to do:

  • listen
  • offer help, by asking questions like "would you like to" or "should I"
  • keep listening
  • do things she asks you to do without second guessing her

Some things not to do:

  • say any imperative sentences (Eg be x, do x, anything that could sound like an order.) And I mean none. If you want her to do something, ask. If you want to advise her, find a way to phrase it that is not an order. Example rewording of your response: "Your family needs you right now. How can I help you get through today?"
  • suggest that there is a time limit on grief or that she needs to work towards being over this or being back to normal
  • argue with her. If she says she will never X or can't Y or has to quit Z, do not tell her she is wrong. Listen to her. Not even "we'll see" or "you don't need to decide that now." A little bit of "Why?" may be appropriate. That said, if tomorrow or next week she never again mentions her need to quit things, don't be all "I thought you said you were quitting that."

Everyone grieves differently and every day is different. Some days she will be angry, some sad, some her old self. She is learning right now who she is in a world without her father. She is learning new roles with her other family members and new plans for her future. If this was a surprise, it will all be much faster and more difficult.

Also, she will have a lot of practical things to do. Helping plan the funeral. Getting a black dress. Picking up Auntie Whoever at the train station. Cleaning her father's home. Pitch in with all of this as much as you humanly can. It will not be forgotten.

How do I know this? I have buried my father, my mother in law, and my father in law. And I talked to my sibs and inlaws during all three bereavement times. I also helped my mother after her brother and mother died within 6 months of each other. I know you want to comfort her. At this time in her life, being told what to do or what not to do by someone with a living father is not something she will want to hear. Support is not bossing or anything that sounds like bossing. Hold your breath and help. There is nothing magical you can say once that will fix her, being there day after day will help. It's hard. It's worth it.

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