In actual fact, different personalities process grief in different ways. There are, from what I’ve observed, five basic types of support that people need:
1. Comforting and reassurance – “It gets better,” “You’ll be okay,” and “Time will heal” are typical of the sentiments that are helpful to types who crave comfort and reassurance. They also tend to appreciate hugs, jokes, the idea that the loved one is “in a better place,” and fond remembrances.
2. Venting and validation – Some people heal by having others just listen while they emotion dump. These folks want others to affirm whatever they say, and to agree without turning the spotlight on themselves.
3. Sense and meaning – Thoughts like “This is part of God’s plan,” “This suffering has meaning even if I don’t see it now,” or “Death and pain are a necessary part of the human condition,” are among the kind of ideas that may be helpful to people who need to restore a sense of order following a loss.
4. Space and silence – There are some people who want to deal with their grief alone. They don’t want you to talk to them. They don’t want to talk to you. Maybe you can make them a casserole if you drop it off quietly.
5. Succor and encouragement – Some people grieve by taking action. They want to do something immediately that will honour the person they lost, or fix the injustice they suffered. They want their support people to help them have the courage and fortitude necessary to get on with it.