How to Really Comfort a Loved One Over the Phone: Step-By-Step

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Comforting someone on the phone can feel a bit awkward in comparison to comforting them in person. It’s difficult to show your emotion by phone, and it’s impossible to show physical signs of affection and support such as touch and hugs. That said, there are still plenty of ways to comfort someone who’s grieving over the phone when it’s impossible to be with them in person. 

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The most important goal of comforting someone, whether in person or by telephone, is to ease their burdens and help them lighten the load of overwhelming emotion. You can offer comfort to someone grieving by listening to them, using a caring tone of voice, and through the use of the soothing sound of your voice. It is possible to show comfort and be emotionally supportive over the telephone to someone who’s hurting.

Here are some steps you can take to comfort a friend or loved one who’s sad.

Steps for Comforting Someone Who’s Upset Over the Phone

When a friend or loved one calls you in tears, it’s hard to know what to say to make them feel better. If you don’t know how to comfort someone over the phone when they’re upset, it can be as simple as lending an ear and listening to them as they describe the pain of their loss.

You may be dealing with a lot of raw emotion as they try and cope with any bad news just received. 

1. Affirm their feelings

Make sure that you are giving someone all of your attention when speaking to them over the phone. Taking the time out to listen attentively to whatever they're going through helps them feel listened to. Try to find a quiet place where there are no loud distractions or other people having conversations in the background. Listen and wait for them to release their emotions as they tell you what they're going through. Don't interrupt them as they tell you what happened. 

Affirm what they've said by repeating to them what they just described their feelings to be. This reassures them that you’re listening and you understand how they're feeling. You can say things like, "I know this is hard for you, and that it's difficult to digest," or, "Take your time, I'm here for you."

2. Encourage them to open up

When you call to express your sympathy and offer your support, encourage your loved one to open up about what they're going through. Show your loved one that you care about how they feel and carefully consider all the things they have to say. Don't minimize their pain or try to make things better.

Ask them to tell you more or describe what happened in greater detail, but don't pry for more information or details than they're ready to give you. You can always say, "I'm here to listen whenever you feel like talking more about it."

3. Give them an invitation to talk

When you give someone the go-ahead to tell you everything that's going on, they may feel more confident expressing what they're going through. Giving them an invitation to tell you everything shows them that you care about them and are willing to provide them with the time needed to get their words out.

Having them take their time will give you a better understanding of their feelings and how much they're suffering. Never minimize their feelings or concerns. Always be patient, and don't pressure them to talk if they aren't ready to share all of the details with you. 

Use these phrases to help keep the conversation going.

  • “Tell me what happened.”
  • “Help me understand more.”
  • “Talk to me about it.”
  • “It’s okay to be sad.”
  • “I’m here to listen.”
  • “Take your time. I’m all ears.”

4. Send them a text

Sometimes bad news reaches you when it’s impossible to pick up the phone to call and offer your condolences to the bereaved. Send a text as soon as you can to say sorry for your loss and explain why you aren’t able to call. There are many supportive texts you can send someone who’s grieving to hold them over until you can talk to them or see them in person.

You can also show your support in several ways via well thought out texts sent throughout the day. Let them know you’ll be checking in on them from time to time to reassure them that you’re available to comfort them when needed.

Tips for Comforting Someone Who’s Grieving a Lost Loved One Over the Phone

Interacting by telephone with someone who's sad and hurting can be awkward and uncomfortable. You want to be there for your loved ones, show them empathy, and let them know you care.

When faced with sobs and crying from the other end of the phone line, it's natural to want to make them stop. Consider refraining from the compelling need to cheer them up or make them feel better. Just listen as intently as possible to show them that you are there for them.

5. Listen without interruption

Listen without interrupting and have the conversation in a quiet place so you can easily hear them. When they stop and pause, verbalize a sign of understanding to let them know that you're still listening and interested in what they have to say. Commit to patiently listening as they tell you their story and about how they're feeling. Expect that they'll let you know the same things over and over again. A person who's grieving needs to repeat what's happened until it starts registering and making sense to them.

Your friend or loved one will spend the first few minutes in shock and disbelief. It'll take time for them to accept that their loved one is gone forever. Listening to someone tell their story repeatedly and without interruption can be very therapeutic for them. 

6. Remain calm 

Whatever you do, remain calm regardless of how fragmented the other person becomes. You may not know what to do when a friend’s parent dies, but you can help calm them by not losing your calmness. You can effectively show your feelings and emotions using only your voice. 

When you convey panic in either the tone of your voice or in what you say, it can cause the person on the other end to panic as well. Let the person on the other end of the line know that it is alright for them to let it all out. Remind them that talking about their loss and expressing their grief is an option and not a requirement. Reassure them that you’re there to listen.

7. Allow them to express emotion

A person faced with a sudden and significant loss will be filled with raw emotion. As uncomfortable as it may be for you to hear, allow them to cry and express their feelings freely without judgment.

Don't try to make things better by telling them not to cry or say that everything will turn out okay when it probably isn't. Letting emotions flow freely is cathartic and will help them calm down.

8. Don’t be the first to hang up

Only end the call when you know the person has had time to calm down sufficiently. If they're driving, ask them to pull over so that you can safely talk on the phone.

Allow them to speak to you until they feel that they want to get off the phone. If you have to hang up first, make sure to give them an explanation as to why. Always tell them when you're going to call back when it's necessary to hang up.

Tips for Comforting a Significant Other Who’s Grieving Over the Phone

One of the hardest things to cope with is seeing your loved one go through stressful times without you physically there to help them get through it. When you can’t be there in person to comfort your significant other, call them to tell them how sorry you are for their loss.

Knowing how to support someone who’s grieving from far away can prove challenging, especially when you want to be there to hold them close and reassure them that things will be okay.

9. Be there for them

The best way to comfort your partner when they're upset is to be sensitive to their situation and show support. Show empathy and affirm your support and commitment to them even when all you're available for is a phone call.

Tell them you're sorry for what they're going through and offer a figurative shoulder to lean on. Reassure them that you're there for them even if you aren't able to help them at that particular moment physically.

10. Don’t try and fix it

It's normal to try and make things better for your partner or significant other, especially when they're grieving a considerable loss. However, resist the urge to give unsolicited advice or tell them what to do unless you've been specifically asked to do so.

Also, refrain from bringing up any of your past similar experiences. Focus your attention on them by not making it about you. It helps to use short affirmative responses to indicate you're listening and following the conversation. 

11. Suggest action steps

There are times when your significant other only wants to be heard and comforted. They don’t necessarily want a solution to their feelings of hurt and sadness.

Sometimes there’s no solution. Nothing you can say can bring back their loved one, and they may only want to share their emotional burdens with you at the moment. But when they ask you for specific things they need to do, suggest immediate steps they can take and offer to help them in any way you can from a distance. 

Offering Comfort Over the Phone

Whenever someone's having trouble coping with bad news, a significant loss, or any other major upset, show them that you care and support them.

You can help a friend or loved one through their grief by being present and available. Letting your loved ones know that you care about them through their grief is important, even if you're only able by text or telephone call. 

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