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Friday, February 15, 2013

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Grieving Person

Most people don’t have a clue what to say to a person who is grieving.  They find it awkward and uncomfortable because they are dealing with their own emotions related to death and immortality.  What they say can have a profound effect on the grieving person and can be remembered by that person for years.  The best advice is to just say, “I’m sorry” and leave it at that.  It is better at this time to allow the griever to do the talking and be a good listener.  They will appreciate you so much for that!  A hug can say much more than words and is harder to misinterpret.

Below are ten examples of things that were either said to me or have been said to other grieving people who have shared them with me.  The comments below the examples are there just to get you thinking and start a conversation.  Some of the comments may seem trite, or tongue-in-cheek, or a little rude, but sometimes that is how a grieving person may feel at the moment.  I hope this helps you think before you speak the next time you are in front of a grieving person.  If you are the grieving person who is confronted by one of these statements perhaps you will reflect on the fact that the person is reacting and not thinking and this might help to soften the blow a bit.
I’d love to have you join in the discussion and send me other examples that you have experienced first-hand.
1. I know just how you feel.
No you don’t.  We are different people.  Everyone grieves differently and every relationship with the deceased loved one is unique.  You can’t know how I feel, but you can ask me how I feel.
2. You are so strong.  I could never live without my ___________. (insert--child, spouse, partner, mother, father, etc.).
No I’m not strong.  In fact I have never felt more weak or confused.  I don’t know what else to do but move through this nightmare.  I didn’t have a choice.  Telling me I’m strong makes me feel more confused.
3. God only takes the best.  He must have really needed him/her.
I really needed him/her more.  I wish he/she wasn’t the best and was still here with me.
4.  It’s been… 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years.  It’s time for you to get over it and move on.
There’s a timeline?  No one told me there’s a timeline.  I don’t feel ready, so I’m not ready. 
5.  Don’t cry. He/She wouldn’t want you to be sad.
Really?  I don’t think we ever had that conversation about how to act after one of us died.  I think not crying would be worse.  I have to be able to express my feelings and I think he/she would be proud of me for doing that.
6.  It’s time to give away his/her stuff.  You can’t keep it forever.
Again with a timeline?  Why can’t I keep it forever?  As long as I am making strides forward in my life there’s nothing wrong with keeping my memories of this person who was so important in my life.
7.  You ought to…move out of your house, go on vacation, start dating, get out more.
If my loved one hadn’t died would you be giving me this same advice?  Why do you think it’s ok now?  I can’t make these kinds of decisions right now.  Give me room to breathe.
8.  You should get a goldfish, kitten, puppy.  You should have another child.
I am having trouble taking care of myself right now.  I can’t remember to water the plants and you want me to take on another responsibility?  Oh, and by the way, another child isn’t a replacement.  It’s not like buying a new car.
9.  Can I have his/her car, clothes, sports equipment, books, music collection…?
Um, no. 
10.  Everything happens for a reason.

There was no reason for this.  I can’t believe this.  My loss may eventually have meaning in my life but it didn’t happen for a reason.  Death happens, just like life happens.

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