We all want to be there for friends and family members who are suffering after the loss of the loved one. Unfortunately, sometimes people avoid grieving family members or friends because they simply don’t know what to say. Here are five things you should never say to someone who is grieving, as well as some things you can say or do instead.
1. “Let me know if you need anything.”
Much of the time, people who are grieving simply won’t be able to think of things they need. Instead, you should simply look for something that needs doing and make sure that it gets done. A classic example of this is bringing food over to someone’s home.
2. “I know exactly how you feel.”
Even if you have been through a similar loss, you’ll never know exactly how your friend is feeling. Every relationship is unique, and everyone’s grief is just as unique. Don’t tell your friend you know what they feel; instead, ask them about their feelings. They’ll know you’re someone they can trust and share with.
3. “I’m sure (he/she) is in a better place.”
Your friend might think that there is no better place, or they may think that being alive on earth is the best place of all. Even if your loved one believes in a happy afterlife, that doesn’t ease the pain of loss and separation they are feeling, so it’s best to keep this thought to yourself. Instead, share a happy memory of the deceased.
4. “Everything happens for a reason.”
Your loved one may be feeling angry at the seeming random chance that has led to their grief. Telling them that their loved one died for a reason will make them feel their anger is illegitimate. Step back and follow your friend’s lead on this one; allow them to express anger or acceptance without your interference.
5. “So, are you starting to feel better?”
This question can be seen as belittling to their grief; it is not your job to help your friend move on. Instead, ask your friend how she or he is feeling. This provides more open space for him or her to express emotion.
Be ready to be there.
Death can be terrifying, even if you aren’t close to the person who’s passed away. But with these helpful phrases, you’ll be ready for your friends when they need you. You may consider asking for advice from an expert on grieving, such as an employee in a funeral home. Just make sure you’re there for your friend with open ears and an open heart.