What to Say (and Not Say) to Someone Who is Grieving

by Sytsema

35085005_m (1)It’s often difficult to know exactly what to say to someone who is grieving. Sometimes, even if you mean well, attempts to comfort and express your support can come out wrong or be taken differently than you intended. While every situation is unique, there are some common guidelines you can follow to help you be there for a loved one without worrying about what to say, or not say, during his or her time of grief.  

What to say:

  1. It’s okay to say nothing at all - a hug is worth a thousand words! It’s also okay to admit you don’t know what to say but that you care and want to help. People tend to appreciate just knowing you are there and willing to listen if they need to talk.

  2. “I am so sorry for your loss” and “You are in my thoughts and prayers” are both comforting statements that express your heartfelt sympathy and provide reassurance that are thinking of the person.

  3. Letting people know you are available anytime and never far away is comforting, but it’s best to be specific. When people grieve, they often have no idea what they need, so telling them to call If they need anything doesn’t tend to be helpful. Instead, ask when you can specifically bring them lunch, or give them a day and time that you’ll call or stop by.

  4. Reassure your loved one that everyone needs help in difficult times and to not be concerned about needing to lean on others.     

What not to say:

  1. Do not imply you know how they feel. You don’t. You can imagine, of course, but you are not actually feeling the same pain. It’s better to simply say you are there and willing to help in any way that you can.

  2. Stay away from starting sentences with “At least.” Although this may seem like you are trying to point out positives, it is actually pointing out that things could be worse and to a person grieving a death, that just doesn’t resonate.

  3. Don’t say the deceased is in a better place. The only place those grieving want the deceased to be is still with them.

  4. Refrain from saying things that imply the person lost can be replaced, such as they can always get married again or have another child.

  5. Everyone grieves differently and in their own time. Never express that you think they should be over it by now or handling it better. Acknowledge bad days and offer to help - no matter how long after the death occurs. You cannot put a time frame on feeling better, so assure them you’ll be there for as long as it takes.

It’s tough to find the right words in times of grief, but if you keep these guidelines in mind, and simply take time to think about what you’re going to say before you say it, so you can consider the impact your words may have, your good intentions will be well-received and bring comfort to others.

For more information or help with difficult discussions, do not hesitate to contact the caring staff of Sytsema Funeral & Cremation Services. You can reach out online, or by calling  231-726-5210 in Muskegon or 616-842-6100 in Grand Haven. We are here for you so you can be there for the ones you love.

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