Knowing what to say or write to a mourning friend or family member can be quite distressing. Most people are well intentioned and don’t want to increase the pain and discomfort of those they love. That doesn’t always mean that we know what to say though. To help with these situations, we’ve come up with the top ten things to not say when consoling someone.
1. I know how you feel. You’ll get over it.
While you may have gone through something similar, every person grieves differently and it can be seen as insensitive when saying this. The griever may think you are trying to minimize their pain when they really need to receive a comforting word or hug.
2. It’s good that they died doing what they loved.
Messages like this are often people trying to rationalize a reason why death was ok. The truth is that death never feels ok to loved ones and there is no way to make it better.
3. God uses all things for good.
Whether or not the person believes in God or not, this can be seen as glazing over the grieving of those left behind. While everything will someday be better, right now the person grieving isn’t in that place and that’s ok.
4. Talk about your own loss.
You may have had a similar experience but those who are in deep grief barely have enough energy to think about their own loss, let alone someone else’s. It can seem selfish to want to focus on your own past suffering while this person is fresh in their current grief and loss. At some point, there may be an appropriate time to talk about how you dealt with your grief, but at the funeral or shortly thereafter is not the time. 5. Life is easier because…
5. Life is easier because…
After losing their child to miscarriage, someone said to a friend that it would have been harder to raise two kids, rather than one. While this may seem obvious, you should avoid implying or saying that life is easier because of the loss of someone. Trying to find any rational reason why death is ok, simply isn’t helpful to those who are grieving.
6. He feels no pain because he is in a better place.
This phrase may not be entirely offensive but it is cliched and overused. Chances are that the griever has heard this many times already.
7. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.
While the sentiments are nice, the person in mourning has had to make numerous overwhelming decisions lately, is in the middle of heartbreaking grief and is trying to keep things together as well as they can. They most likely will never call you, even if they do need help. Consider working with other close friends to bring hot meals to the family or give them a call a week or two after the funeral to ask what you can do to help.
8. It was meant to be, or it was destiny.
This phrase offers little consolation to the bereaved and can often be taken as offensive. Not everyone wants to believe that their loved one had to die at that time. It may even bring the mourner to question their beliefs. During a time of such upheaval, they don’t need additional burdens laid at their feet.
9. At least he was able to live a good, pleasurable, full, life.
When a death occurs, rarely do people feel like it was long enough. Death always feels unnatural and this phrase brings little comfort. In some cases, the person may not have actually lived a “good” life in the eyes of the family and this phrase can bring grief to the surface further.
10. Not say or do anything at all
Sometimes when you don’t know what to say, you might feel the urge to avoid or ignore the bereaved. While they may not notice in their grievous state, if you are an important person in their life, they most likely will eventually take note. Even if all you can do is say you’re so sorry and give them a hug, that is better than doing nothing at all.
Instead of displaying your own pride or shallow comments, focus on the pain and loss of those closest to the deceased. Avoiding these ten phrases or lines of sympathy can bring you and the bereaved comfort at the loss of a loved one. Consider saying something like this: “I am so sorry for the pain you and your family are feeling right now. I am at a loss for words. I know there is nothing for me to say that will make your loss easier but know that I am sending you my love and support.” Your presence and simple words can mean more than anything else during their time of loss.