When Someone is Grieving, Please Don’t Say..

When Someone is Grieving, Please Don’t Say..


I want to talk about something heavy that hits close to home for many of us: the death of a loved one, and what is often said afterwards, perhaps in person, perhaps through social media posts. I’m talking about the flurry of well-intended but often inadequate condolences we offer in times of grief. Let’s talk about those words we toss around without much consideration, reflexively. Words that can lift someone up or drag them further down.

Here are just a few comments, some aimed at the passing of a loved one, some aimed at the loss of a child, some aimed at a beloved pet. At the close, I’ve suggested different phrases you may want to consider, or perhaps you can give us some of your ideas. :

  • “Thoughts and prayers.” It’s a sentiment meant to convey support, but it can ring hollow, especially for those who don’t share the same faith or are searching their beliefs for meaning.
  • “Sorry for your loss.” It may be caring but it’s the go-to, it’s an easy often used statement, isn’t it? Therein lies the problem—it’s become so overused that its meaning has been diluted. This statement can be read on line after line of condolences, try to say something a bit different.
  • “At least you have other children.” Seriously? Yes, this is said and shouldn’t be.
  • “Time will heal.” It’s a comforting notion, but the reality is far more complex. The problem is that you often dread time moving on because it takes you further away from the time you were with them.
  • “You can have more children.” Imagine hearing this when circumstances dictate otherwise.
  • “If only…” “If only it hadn’t been snowing”, “If only that driver hadn’t been at that corner at that time”. These words are laden with regret and what-ifs, serving only to deepen the pain. They make the receiver of the comments question themselves even more.
  • “I’ve been through the same thing.” While meant to empathize, such comparisons rarely offer true comfort.
  • “Would you like me to help you clean out their ————– (clothes/room/toys) ?” These possessions hold profound significance. Even though you are offering your support, the removal of items should be handled when the time is right for the bereaved. They will ask if they need your help.
  • “Are you getting another dog/cat/pet”. Let them grieve, they’ve just lost a friend.

What can be said instead?

It’s difficult but let’s just put some ideas together and I’d love to hear yours.

  • “I’m a good listener, if you want to talk”
  • “This must be hard, I wish you strength in the days ahead”
  • “It’s hard to know what to say at times like this.. I’m here if you need me”
  • “Life can be incredibly cruel. I’m thinking of you”
  • “Is there anything that you need that I can help with?”
  • “You’re in my thoughts, I’m so sorry.”

In closing, in times of grief, let’s choose our words with care, genuine empathy and support to those who need it most. Let’s remember that our words have power—power to comfort or to wound, to uplift or to diminish.





The Woz
  • Steven Adamson
    Posted at 00:59h, 28 February Reply

    Quite often I simply say; life sucks, if I can be a help in anyway please let me know.
    We all have had the proverbial rug pulled out from beneath us. What I remember about those life-lows is that I didn’t need words so much as a simple hug. There were plenty words enough in my head but never enough arms that held me.

    • The Woz
      Posted at 18:26h, 05 March Reply

      This is a beautiful act, I appreciate your idea, Steve. Life does suck and your answer perfectly describes it. Thank you.

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