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Helping Grieving Family Members


My uncle and his family had an auto accident. As a result of the accident, my uncle passed away. His daughter was the one driving on the day of the accident. I am going to attend my favorite uncle's funeral. How do I comfort my cousin and let her guilts lessen?

The best support you can offer your cousin is your presence. DO NOT try to take her quilt away. She needs to experience her pain first without having people minimize what she is feeling. Too many times, we try to take the pain away which makes the person who is grieving feel like they are not being heard or that they can not "grieve" in front of others. Let your cousin feel whatever it is she is feeling. But let her know that you will be there for her. After the funeral and for weeks and months to come, your cousin will need to know that family does not blame her. She will need to understand that accidents happen. Offer a listening ear and heart. Assure her that she can open up to you and call you whenever she needs to talk. Make sure you follow-up with her for weeks and months. She will need on-going support and love.

I know that our initial reaction is to try and comfort a loved one and to "take the pain and guilt away." She will be numb for the funeral and for the days following. Your support will be needed for a long time after the funeral. Allow her to talk about the accident, reassure her that accidents do happen and we don't know why certain things happen when they do. Most grieving persons that I see for counseling tell me how angry they get when others don't allow them to express their feelings. The greatest gift you can give her is your support. Allow her to express herself. Allow her cry, to be angry, to be sad, etc. And reassure her.

If she needs help after the funeral, encourage her to attend a support group or to seek individual counseling. But mostly, stay in touch with her. - C. Jan Borgman, CSW, LISW

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