Have you ever had the experience of not knowing what to say to someone who has lost a loved one? Have you ever been to a funeral and approached the griever and felt at a loss for words?
Have you ever lost a loved one and been hurt or offended by something someone said to you? Has someone ever asked you "How are you doing?" after you lost someone and you wanted to respond, "How the (blank) do you think I'm doing?"
Well, if you have found yourself in either situation, you are not alone. Don't worry, here is a list of "potentially hurtful things to say" and "potentially helpful things to say", to use as a guideline in these situations.
Potentially Hurtful Things To Say
"I know how you feel." (Even if you have experienced a similar loss, each loss is a unique experience to that individual griever. Perhaps a better sentiment to express would be "I lost a (insert relationship here) too. If you would like to talk, I'm here for you.").
"I don't understand why you feel this way."
"You two were always fighting anyway."
"You're still young."
"It was God's will."
"You can have other children."
"You can always remarry."
"I know someone who had two family members die and . . ."
"Their death was a blessing."
"It's in the past. Put it behind you."
"At least you have other children."
"Don't cry. It will upset your mother."
Potentially Helpful Things To Say
"It's ok to be sad."
"Your feelings aren't wrong or right, they just ARE."
"What can I do for you?"
"How are you doing with all of this?" (Ask this only if you truly want to hear how they are REALLY doing).
"Please tell me how you are feeling." (Again, only ask this if you truly want to hear how they are REALLY feeling. It can be helpful for the griever to verbalize their thoughts and emotions.).
"This must be so hard for you."
"I'm here and I want to listen." (Let them know you are available to listen, they may not want to burden you.)
"Take all the time you need."
"It isn't fair, is it?"
So, what do you say? Think about it.