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So often as well meaning friends, co-workers and loved ones , we don't know what to say to a person who has just experienced a loss so we say nothing at all. We fear saying the wrong thing. Grievers often feel abandoned by friends in the midst of their loss because of this. Although many of the following statements we may recognize that we have said to people, it is important to understand that these statements are often not helpful. Grief is about a broken heart, yet often we speak to people's intellect as opposed to their heart.
Avoid cliches as well as these common platitudes:
Time heals all wounds. (Time doesn't heal all wounds, although healing takes time).
Try to look for the good in the situation. Be positive.
Your loved one is in a better place. (There is no better place for my loved one than with me).
The Lord never gives us more than we can handle. (That is not how I feel right now).
Try not to cry. He or she wouldn't want you to cry.
I know how you feel. (I think this is the worst thing we can say, because we never really know how someone else feels. Tends to make grievers angry).
Everything will be okay. (Believe this for the person and hold on to hope, but tends to feel like you are dismissing someone's grief).
Let me know if I can do anything for you. ( Just show up and do something if you want to. Grievers often don't call to ask for help. Encourage them to have a list of chores, errands that need to be done so when people ask, they have something concrete to give them. People do enjoy doing for the grievers and it will give them something to do. Men especially prefer to be action oriented in their grief, so try to give the men something tangible to do).
You're still young. (You will meet someone else, have more children,,,)
It was God's will. (Many people already feel angry with God and this won't help at this time).
It all happened for the best. ( This can feel shockingly painful).
You can have other children. (Children can never, ever be replaced).
It is time to put this behind you. ( This is spoken to many children and teens by adults. There is no time line to grief. We all grieve in our own way and for as long as we need to. Children regrieve at each developmental stage. Grief really never ends, but it changes. The acute pain dissipates in time, yet on holidays, special days, and other times it can feel just as acute as when the loss first occurred. Alan Wolfelt calls this a grief burst or others have said we are sometimes "ambushed by grief."
You have your whole life ahead of you. (Many grievers don't even know if they can or want to go on another hour in this pain, so pointing out they have a whole life to live without their loved one is not helpful at all).
At least he or she is out of pain. (Well I am not).
Be strong. (We are telling people not to cry and to hold in their feelings).
Something good will come of this. (It probably will and even if it doesn, most people would trade the good that came from it for the person they lost in a moment).
You can always remarry. (People are not replaceable).
There are other fish in the sea. (That was not a fish, but a person and I don't want another one, I want that one).
You can get a new dog, cat, bird.
Don't cry as it will upset your mother/father/sister/brother. (Creates a sense of guilt and a burden of responsibility).
He or she had a good life or a long life. (Maybe they did, maybe not but it wasn't long enough for me).
Now you are the man/woman of the house. (Heavy burden to place on a child or teen. This has caused much pain in many children and teens. Often the extent of these damaging words are not realized till years later. Often teen girls or boys not only deal with the loss of a parent, but also have to take on many more responsibilities around the house which often leads to feelings of resentment on top of their raw grief. They now need to deal with secondary losses and don't need us to tell them they are adults, when they are not).
If you think this is bad, I know a family...... (Please let's not compare, or minimize other's losses).
Let me tell you about my own loss which is similar to yours. (There will be a time for you to share, but not right now. Your role is to listen and stay with the person's loss. When we bring the focus to ourselves, we leave the person in a real way. They want to not feel alone. Grief shared allows the person to feel some relief for a time before they need to gather it all up again and make it into tomorrow).
There is a reason for everything.
She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go.
She was so good, God wanted her with Him.
You can still have another child.
Aren't you over him yet, he has been dead for a while now.
She brought this on yourself (heard that often with my mom who smoked and died of lung cancer).
At least she lived a long
life, many people die young.
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