What to Say When Someone You Know is Grieving

Connie McKinney By Connie McKinney, 23rd May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Bereavement

People often don't know what to say or do when someone they know loses someone they love. Here are some tips on what to say when someone you know is grieving.

Grief: A Universal Experience

My father died many years ago. But I still remember the pain and grief I felt as well as some of the comforting words people told me. Since then, I've tried to pay it forward and comfort relatives, friends and acquaintances whenever they lose somebody close to them. Here is some advice I learned the hard way on what to say when someone you know is grieving.
Remember that grief is universal. Nobody lives forever. Sooner or later, we all experience grief and loss.
Still, it can feel awkward when your co-worker loses his mother or the elderly neighbor down the street dies. You may not know what to say when someone you know is grieving.

What You Should Say

Sometimes, the best thing you can say is nothing. A hug, a handshake or a touch of the hand can communicate more than words. Just being there speaks volumes. The person who is grieving will know that you cared enough to take time from your busy schedule to attend the wake or funeral.
There are two words that are always appropriate to say to someone who has lost a loved one: "I'm sorry." You may want to add: "I'm sorry for your loss" or the loss of your mother, husband, etc. That's all you really have to say.
Here's another helpful phrase: "I am thinking of you" (or praying for you if you or the other person is religious.) Or say: "I am here for you."
Also, don't be afraid to share your memories or stories of the deceased person. So many people told me of the favors and kind acts my father did for them. That gave me such comfort. People love hearing the impact their lost loved one had on the lives of others

What Not to Say

Now you know what to say when someone you know is grieving. Here are some examples of what NOT to say. All of these phrases will only upset the grieving person. So please - don't say them.
Don't say:"It was God's will." This only makes people more upset. Some people may even become angry with God for taking their loved one away.
Don't say: "He (or she) is in a better place now." The loved one will think: "how can they be in a better place when we are apart?" Or they will wonder what could be better than the life they shared here in this world.
Don't say: "I know how you feel." You don't. Grief is highly individualized which means that the way I experienced the loss of my father may be completely different from how you experienced the loss of your father. People grieve in all different ways. Life circumstances are different for everybody. You really don't know what it's like for the other person experiencing the loss - only that they're in a place of pain right now.
Don't say: "When my father died, I felt terrible." This is not the time or place to share your loss. They are the ones grieving - not you. Talking about your loss takes the focus off the other person.

What to Do For a Grieving Person

The simple answer is to do whatever you can do to help them out. This is the time to show up at their door with a homemade casserole, soup or other food which they can easily warm up in their microwave or oven. Or stop by with a pizza.
Offer to help them with chores or errands. People who are grieving many not feel like doing anything. They will likely appreciate it if you offer to do their laundry or help them clean house.
Be a good listener. Visit them and ask them how they're feeling. Take them out to coffee or lunch. Don't be afraid to use the name of the deceased person. Ask them if they want to share stories of their lost loved one. Talking about their loss can be very healing for those who are grieving.

Helping Others Helps You as Well

One way to channel grief is through good works. Encourage your friend or family member to find some way to honor the memory of their deceased loved one. For example, my father was a volunteer firefighter. We asked people to make memorial donations in memory of my father.
Other people honor their loved ones' memory in a more lasting way. A young widow I know set up a scholarship for a local school in her husband's memory. Every year, the scholarship is awarded to a deserving young person who is not only a good student but also a strong community volunteer - just like this woman's young husband was.
There will always be some pain and grief associated with a lost loved one. But knowing that your loved one can continue making a difference long after he or she is gone will bring much comfort and help us all to be a more connected, loving society.


Bereaved, Bereaved Persons, Bereavement, Grief, Grieve, Grieving, Grieving A Parent, Grieving Etiquette, Loss, Loss Grief, Loss Of A Friend, Loss Of A Loved One, Loss Of A Relationship, Sorrow, Sorrows

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author avatar Connie McKinney
I enjoy exercising, pets, and volunteering as well as writing about these topics and others.

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author avatar LOVERME
23rd May 2013 (#)

I once wrote about grief …the views have since changed
and as the Buddha would have said
pain of grief is eternal and universal but extension of the pain is suffering so move on as the inevitable has to happen to each one of us so simply hug a while and others move on nothing much you can do nor contribute at that grieving moment it's so very personal but a warmth does show your love to the ones who remain and the one who has gone..

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