Grief is when someone close to us dies or begins hospice, it pulls on our heart, distracts our mind, and affects us physically. As a result, we feel fragile, or helpless. Well-intentioned friends try to console us, but struggle with what to say. With recent experience being on the other side, I’d like to offer a few suggestions for what NOT to say to someone new to grief, and provide a few alternative comments.
1. “Cheer up. Your loved one wouldn’t want you to be sad.” When you care deeply for someone, you grieve deeply. You may need to be sad in order to get to the other side of grief.
2. “Focus on all the positive things in your life.” Even if someone appreciates the good things, that doesn’t change the feeling of monumental loss.
3.“She’s in a better place.” Even though the afterlife may seem spectacular, it doesn’t change the fact that my loved one is no longer with me, and I am sad because I have experienced that loss.
4.“Focus on all the good times.” Thinking about past memories can be painful, when you are realizing that you no longer have the opportunity to create new memories.
5. “How about those Seahawks?” Keeping conversations light is not a bad thing (depending on timing), but those grieving need someone who is willing to let them be real; someone who isn’t afraid to talk about the heavier topics.
6. “I know how you feel.” Sometimes a grieving person does not even know how they feel, so don’t pretend you do.
7. “She lived a full life.” Even if the person leaves an amazing legacy, it doesn’t account for time taken away.
8. “Call me if you need anything.” Instead, suggest a specific thing you will do- I will stop by next Wednesday with dinner, I will pick the kids up from school next week.
9. “She would not want you to be sad.” You honestly do not know what someone else would want or how they would act.
10.“How are you doing?” This seems well intentioned, but it really just grazes the surface and 25 other people have already asked the question.
The common thread of the above comments is that it may feel that we are trying to minimize the situation.
Instead, try any of these:
- I’m so sorry for your loss.
- One of my favorite memories was when she…
- I can’t imagine what you’re going through.
- I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in whatever way you need me.
- I wish I had the right words to say. Just know I care.
Personally, I had to learn to spend less time talking and more time listening.
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