How to Listen to a Grieving Friend

In recognition of Grief Awareness Day August 30, here are five tips for how to listen when someone you know is grieving.

Listening from the heart requires self-awareness. Intend to listen more authentically. What follows are considerations for becoming an authentic listener.

  1. Listen without judgment. Judgment is reacting based on our own experience. As you listen simply receive without judging what is said. This opens a space for deep trust.
  2. Commit to patience. We live in a rushed world and tend to move on to the next thing rather than attending to what is in front of us. Authentic communication can’t be rushed. Be patient with yourself and the other person.
  3. Listen first, then respond. We tend to mentally form our response while the person is still talking. Focus first on what the person is conveying then reply.
  4. Listen to the silence as well as the words. Sitting in silence with another is one of the most potent forms of communication. Silence allows our hearts to connect.
  5. Let touch speak for you. Sometimes a compassionate touch says “I care and I’m here for you” better than words.

In closing, I offer a quote from Rachel Naomi Remen. “Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes on the people around us.” And if our paths should cross, I’ll do my best to listen to you!

Ann Catlin, OTR, LMT: For twenty years, Ann led in the field of skilled touch in eldercare and hospice. She has nearly forty years’ clinical experience as an occupational and massage therapist. She created Age-u-cate’s Compassionate Touch program and serves as a Master Trainer and training consultant.

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