6. Allow both tears & laughter

Acknowledge the grieving person's pain and let them know it's okay to discuss their feelings or cry. The tendency in the presence of grief is to back away from it by changing the subject of conversation or turning away from tears. Survivors know this and need to be given permission to grieve in your presence.

You can grant this permission in both verbal and nonverbal ways.

You might say, "Go ahead and talk (or cry); it’s okay, I can handle it," or "Tears are good," or "Tears let the pain out." As they begin to cry, speak briefly, emphasizing your permission, and then wait in silence while they weep for as long as they feel the need.

Maintain eye contact as they begin to fight back the tears. If you feel the need, give them a tissue --slowly, because if you move too quickly your message says, "Hurry up, wipe those tears, your crying makes me uncomfortable." A gentle hug may be appropriate and reassuring. However, too tight a squeeze is a message saying, "Stop that."

Sometimes grieving people need to be assured that it's all right to laugh, too. They may feel that laughing is disrespectful to a dead person's memory and feel guilty for having a good time. But you can help them to see that it isn’t so and that it is alright to grieve in doses and take a break from time to time. Trying to force a smile by telling jokes isn’t appropriate, but remembering good times of the past with humor is healing. Constant solemnity is not necessary to honor a memory.