Why do I worry about what I say?
Many of us may find it awkward when talking to someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one.
We worry about what to say to them and that we might say the wrong thing and make them feel worse.
How do we say something that does not sound too formal or too rehearsed or insincere? Do we say anything at all? Or should we talk about something else to help them take their mind off things?
We worry and we overthink, and we can end up tying ourselves in knots when all we are trying to do is to genuinely support them in whatever way we can.
So, if you were to imagine yourself in this person’s shoes – what would you not want to hear them say to you when you were going through such a painful time?
5 things not to say to someone who is grieving
- “I know just how you feel”
We might think we do, but in fact every loss is different, and every relationship is different. How we might feel could be very different to how someone else is feeling.
It might be simpler to say: “I can only imagine how you must be feeling right now.”
- “They were in a lot of pain, so it must be a relief in a way”
This may well be true, and this person has been going through a terrible time watching their loved one in pain whilst trying to care for them.
They may feel relieved to know that the suffering is finally over but even so, the death will still be a huge shock and incredibly painful for them.
- “Cheer up, they would want you to be happy”
If we have lost someone who is very important to us, we might not be able to help how we are feeling. Being told that our loved one would not want us to feel sad might just make us feel guilty.
- “At least you still have….”
You might be referring to children, grandchildren, or a pet. However, for this person no one can replace the person who has died, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect them to.
They need time to grieve and miss the person they have lost even if they do have other loving people in their life.
- “Time is a great healer”
This may be a true and wise saying. However, for this person the pain of losing someone close will always be there. Feeling better cannot be forced and when in the depths of grief, they may not be able to imagine ever feeling better again.
Eventually, in their own time, in their own way, they will learn to move forward.
If it were me?
It can be really hard to know what to say to someone who has recently lost someone important to them.
If you are not sure – it might be helpful to try to imagine if it were the other way around. What would you like to hear during this painful time? Would you just like some reassurance and to know that they care about you? Would you like them to offer you a cup of tea and give you a bit of their time and care?
When we are agonising about what to say, or what not to say, it can be important to remember that for many people just being there to listen to them is more than enough when they are feeling so lost.
If you know of someone who has lost a significant person in their life and is needing some support, then please suggest that they contact me: