Many of us feel we should demonstrate strong emotional control and some people mistakenly feel that it is a weakness to show their emotions. However if we are genuinely moved by a situation and express our feelings by saying “I’m sorry” or by a touch or a gesture, we are showing that we care and also demonstrating to the bereaved person that it is alright for them to express their own painful feelings.
Nothing we can do or say can make things better or take away the pain.
Often people worry about what to say to someone who is grieving the loss of an important person in their life. It is seldom helpful to put off mentioning the dead person and to resort to small talk. Avoiding the topic only serves to either collude in the denial of what has happened, or to fail to acknowledge the enormity of the loss that person is experiencing.
As professionals, it is useful to check how well we are communicating by asking the other person what they have heard and understood from what we have said. In distress, it can be difficult for people to absorb what we tell them, and it is our responsibility to ensure they have understood.
Listening and communicating
Listening to others means using all our senses to pick up on what the person is communicating, both verbally and subliminally. Listening involves much more than just what we are hearing.
- Listen with our ears, listening to the words, the tone of voice and the feelings being conveyed
- Listen with our eyes, observing body language and facial expressions. Maintaining regular eye contact lets the other person know we are concentrating on what they are saying
- Give our undivided attention to the other person and notice not only what is being said, but also what is not being talked about. By setting time boundaries we create a safe environment and enable the other person to know how long they can expect us to spend listening to them so that the interaction doesn’t end abruptly
- Listen with our heart, communicating our interest and empathy by our tone of voice and body language
- Use all of ourselves to connect with the other person to ensure there is two way communication