What to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving

My neighborhood is grieving the sudden and unexpected loss of one of our own this week- a devoted father, husband, and friend. This shocking news has forced the family and all of us to ask many difficult questions over the last week, such as “What do I say to the family?”, “How do I tell my kids their father has passed?”, and “How do I know if my kids are coping in a healthy way?” With these and many other questions in mind, I will be spending some time over the next couple of weeks posting topics related to such a tragedy. To start with, I dug up a post from last June.

griefWhat To Say To Someone Who Is Grieving (original post from June 2012)

I talked with a friend recently who has experienced a personal loss. As a therapist, I know the best thing I can do is to  offer support and sympathy. As a friend, this was difficult because I wanted so badly to have the right words to “make them feel better” and even an urge to “fix” their problem. It got me to thinking about how difficult this situation is for many people. What do you say to someone grieving a deceased loved one, or to someone fighting a terminal illness? I am even referring to people experiencing difficult life struggles, such as the loss of a job, divorce, or finding out your child has a terminal illness or disability. These all entail grief in some way and are highly distressful.

The unfortunate news is that we all will be put in this position many times throughout our lives. The good news is that knowing what to say and do is actually pretty simple. Let them know you care. That’s all. You don’t have to have magic words, or a solution, or an explanation. Just tell them you care.

Examples of what to say:

These examples convey to the person that you are sympathetic to their personal sorrow and that you want to be supportive for their needs.

  • “I’m truly sorry for your loss.”
  • “I’m here whenever you need me.”
  • “Although I can’t know exactly how you feel, I understand how difficult this must be for you.”
  • “I’m off all week if you need me to come over. Just call me.”
  • “Let me know when you are ready to talk or have lunch. I’m here for you anytime.”
  • “Your ‘loved one’ was such an amazing person and my life was blessed by their friendship.”
  • No words- just a sincere and warm hug or touch will do.

Examples of what may NOT be the right words:

These examples can convey that you think you know exactly how they feel, are trying to fix their problem, trying to find some reason for what happened, or minimize the grief. As a grieving person, these comments don’t typically feel good at the moment. But remember, everything has a time and place too.

  • “It was their time.”
  • “Maybe God is trying to teach a lesson in all this.”
  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “You can always have another child.”
  • “At least you had 10 good years.”

In the past, I have said some things that were not the best, but they were all with a good heart. If you have said some things in the “not good” example list, please don’t beat yourself up. It’s most important that you cared enough to even be there any say something. For the next time you are confronted with a grieving friend, remember to keep it simple and just be there for your friend or family member.

Have you ever experienced a loss or gone through a difficult time? If so, what were some of the most comforting words or actions you received from others?

References:

Supporting A Grieving Person

What Not To Say To A Grieving Person

Things To Say To A Grieving Person

You May Also Like:

Helping Your Child Or Teen Through Difficult Times

Our Times Of Struggle

Staying Connected As A Family

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Published by

Kim Peterson, MA, LPC-S, RPT

Kim is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, and Registered Play Therapist in Dallas, Texas.

One thought on “What to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving

  1. Kim, good round up of what to say and not say. For me, the biggest thing I learned when it comes to being there for others is not to give advice. Usually people will need to figure out on their own what to do instead of hearing from others, “You should do this and that.” I used to dispel a ton of advice to my friends and family and realized that that was the last thing they needed. All they really needed was a listening ear, and in talking it out, they usually come up with their own solutions.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.