The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief
The following is taken directly from David Kesslers, *Grief.com,
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Many of us have said “The Best” and “The Worst.”
We meant no harm, in fact, the opposite. We were trying to comfort.
A grieving person may say one of the worst ones about themselves and it’s OK. It may make sense for a member of the clergy to say, “He is in a better place” when someone comes to them for guidance. Whereas an acquaintance saying it may not feel good.
You would also not want to say to someone, you are in the stages of grief. In our work, On Grief and Grieving, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and I share that the stages were never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages. While some of these things to say have been helpful to some people, the way in which they are often said has the exact opposite effect than what was originally intended.
The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief
1. I am so sorry for your loss.
2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.
4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
5. My favorite memory of your loved one is…
6. I am always just a phone call away
7. Give a hug instead of saying something
8. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you
9. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything
10. Saying nothing, just be with the person
The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief
1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young
2. He is in a better place
3. She brought this on herself
4. There is a reason for everything
5. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now
6. You can have another child still
7. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him
8. I know how you feel
9. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go
10. Be strong
How to make room for grief and sadness during the holidays ~
Don't be afraid to say "their name", and say it often.
No one wants to feel as if their loved one is forgotten or avoided, especially during the holidays.
A seat at the table.
Acknowledging the symbolism of the empty chair helps to remind loved ones that their person's memory is still recognized.
Share photos or videos.
Visual reminders prompt us to feel the emotions, going deep into our feelings, while sharing them with open-hearted people.
Serve their favorite dish.
Share what they loved about this particular food and why they enjoyed it.
Light candles in their honor.
Creating a quiet, and reflective, space where everyone can go to be present with the emotions.
Go to nature.
Nature is a natural way to connect with thoughts and feelings, while opening the heart space that honor the journey.
We don't like to speak about grief. It makes us uncomfortable.
Some think it's being a Debbie Downer, and avoid being around "it".
Grief is all around us.....and yet we are not given lessons on how to support anyone that is mourning.
The following article gives many ways to support a griever, from the early days and after some time has passed.
Acknowledge the grief and their loved one, even if you are uncomfortable. Let them know you see them, and if you are able, let them know you will walk along side them on their journey.
Dogs are amazing animals.
They intuitively know how and when to love and comfort. They seem to have an innate ability to sense other people's emotions.
There have been numerous studies and research done on the power the dogs can bring to our homes, and the impact they make on human life.
Dogs are intuitive, as they often sense things even before we humans can, and they are definitely able to sense grief.
Throughout my life, my dogs have given me so much comfort, just by being present, quietly sitting beside me or wanting a simple rub on the belly. For a few moments, Im taken out of myself, and into the genteel world of 4-legged companionship.
What stories can you share about how your dogs have offered solace in grief?
We live in a society that pushes the idea of the pursuit of happiness. It is reflected that to be happy is the purpose of life. Is it?
To be a human being, to experience life, both good and bad, to feel emotions of joy and sadness, is all part of the spectrum of living life.
To grieve is not something to be ashamed of, but something to have the courage to feel and express.
Surrounding yourself with people that can create the space for your emotions, not trying to "bright side" your grief, allows for honest conversations that make room for healing.
Grief is unique, there is no one way to experience it, it is not linear, and it doesn't have a time limit. However, when we invited grief in, when we are open with our emotions, we tend to learn to bring grief along, because whether we want it or not, grief will eventually show up.
The following articles talks about taking grief's hand and befriending courage. Both of these actions require a willingness to do grief differently, and not the way our society has told us we "should" do it.
When we open ourselves up to all the emotions of grief, find safe people to share it with, we know that we are not alone, and that we can lean into the community of support.
Grief - the uninvited guest. It comes when you don't plan for it, you are never quite sure how long it will stay, and you certainly don't know how it will manifest in your emotions.
Grief does not take holidays off. In fact, it can show up even bolder than a regular Tuesday afternoon, when you might be alone, and feel free to feel all of the emotions.
Nope! It comes when it wants to, which makes it very hard to plan keeping feelings contained.
However, what might happen if grief was invited in, attended to and witnessed? Would it feel too vulnerable and perhaps too uncomfortable?
Courage - being afraid, but walking through the fear anyone.
Could you be more strong than you think?
Could you feel all of the emotions of grief, and still be heartbroken, yet slowly witnessing the pain to walk through the grief?
Honoring and witnessing the grief and finding the right support, slowly gives you the courage to invite grief in, not keeping it out, all the while creating a safe place to for open and honest sharing of emotions, which help to lead to healing.
There are a lot of people suffering this holiday season, and it is important to be aware that not everyone is grateful.
As we often say to those that are grieving, "our thoughts and prayers are with you", these words can seem hollow. However, at least people are are acknowledging the pain and suffering of others.
We can go a bit further.....we can become grief educated. We can learn more about how grief -
Has no time limits
Isn't the same for everyone
Affects everyone different, and that's ok
Grief gets to be witnessed and honored, just like the lives of the people that use to sit in the now empty chairs.
Another year, another Thanksgiving. Same holiday, different year. Has your life changed since last year? Have you experienced a death or a major life loss? Are you experiencing sadness and/or grief?
Although this time of year is about being with loved ones and expressing love and gratitude, for some it may be filled with heartbreak and sadness.
It's important to be aware of those that are in pain, and to ask them how they are doing "today", and just listen, don't fix or make it better.
With grief, everything has changed......life feels uncomfortably different. Some may feel a void, others may feel relief that a loved one is no longer in pain. Either emotion is valid, and normal. There is no need to pretend, and if need be, make and honor different plans this year. Allow yourself the time, and space, to feel. You do not need to make decisions that do not feel aligned with your truth, as you get to navigate this journey because it is your journey, and no one two grief journey's are the same.
If you want, gather people that can support your grief, that create a safe haven for it, so that you can honor you and your loved one without judgement.
Grief is not only emotional, but it is also manifests itself as physical and spiritual fatigue. Understanding the fragility of grief, allows the space for self care and self repair.
Never underestimate the power of tears. A good cry can really soften the soul to let other emotions in. Crying is powerful, and needed to release our innermost feelings. Tears can be of relief, sadness, anxiety, hope, relief.....just to name a few.
Talking about your loved one helps, even though at times, you may become sad again. Saying your loved one names help to keep them in your world, and is a way to stay connected. Just because a loved one dies, it doesn't mean that your love dies.
Read the article to learn more tools.....
Thanksgiving - the season of "mandated joy".
When a loved one has died, is dying, is in ill-health, estranged or living elsewhere, Thanksgiving can bring sadness.
When feeling emotions other than gratitude and thankfulness, it is easy to feel alienated from others and this time of year.
We live in a society that is focused on being "blessed and joyful", but this is not the reality of life.
Life is both happy/sad, easy/difficult, joy/grief.
To speak about emotions, is hard.
Not everyone wants to hear about true feelings.
Sitting with the duality of feelings is uncomfortable.
Very few can witness and be with another grief/sadness.
Remember that it is ok to -
Honor your emotions
Not want to celebrate the holiday
Be open, and honest, about how you feel
Set boundaries with others about what you can do/not do
To take care of yourself this Thanksgiving -
Create new traditions
Share emotions with kids/grandkids
Embrace the duality of emotions that appear
Not over-schedule yourself into false happiness
If you attend Thanksgiving, have a game plan and exit strategy
Grief is a natural, and normal, emotion.
There is no right or wrong way to experience it.
It has no clear direction, nor an ending point.
It deserves to be honored, by you.
The "turkey in the room" for Thanksgiving.......just like the elephant in the room.....is GRIEF.
Grief is hard, and when you add in a holiday, it can be more difficult.
Thanksgiving, the time of year when we are expected to focus on gratitude and thanks. For those grieving, gratitude is usually not an emotion that is felt.
Grief brings a myriad of emotions, and often grievers can feel conflicting emotions, which can bring unease and alienation from those experiencing gratitude and thankfulness during this season.
However, when we can be honest with ourselves, and with people that can "be" with our grief, we can feel a sense of community, and not feel guilt over the emotions we are experiencing.
The gift you can give yourself, or to those that are grieving, is to give the space to express emotions, not wanting to make it better, or to bright side the situation, but to witness and honor the journey of grief.
Seasonal changes - some people are excited for them, others not so much.
Fall - representing the time of year when the nights are longer, days are cooler, nature is slowing down, and soon comes winter.
Fall can affect the mind - some cherish the stillness and others resist the change.
Fall can remind us of impermanence - where leaves change colors and eventually fall, leaving trees and bushes bare. Yet there is beauty, and wisdom.
The wisdom of fall is that it is a visual reminder that life is constantly changing, it never stays the same. It, like life, has stages, phases.
Autumn reminds us through the shorter days and longer nights to find comfort amongst the solitude. This space allows for awareness and openness.
With all the changes that occur in nature it is a reminder for us to understand what is important in our life, and what we get to let go. What brings us purpose and contentment and what brings us discourse and unhappiness. What feeds our souls and what detracts from our truth.
The wisdom of the fall is that we can find gratitude to bend with the seasons and to remain steady within the change.
To reap and to sow.
During harvest, one gathers crops (reap) and then plants seeds to grow (sow).
In the spiritual sense, during our harvest (in life and in dying), what we reap, is what we sow. Another way to say this could be karma.
How aware are you of your actions and interactions with others on a daily basis? Not just in the big events in life, but also in the mundane every day of life?
What kind of self discovery would appear?
What insightful and deep nuggets would we find?
What would it look like to participate in a spiritual harvest?
What would come to the surface when we excavate past events?
What would become glaring on how we interacted with people?
Would we find compassion, kindness and love?
Would we discover actions and behaviors we wish to look away from?
A spiritual harvest allows us to see what we sow by ~
Discovering parts of us that are balanced.
Letting go of parts that do not serve our essence.
A spiritual harvest brings back to us what we reaped by ~
Being conscious of our actions.
Treating others in ways that brings respect.
Understanding that our behavior reflects whom we are as humans.
Take the time this fall to rediscover your truth, align your values to your essence and partake in a spiritual harvest so that you can sow and reap what is important to you.
Autumn and Spring.
Winter and Summer.
These are 4 differing seasons that make up an entire year.
Birth and Death.
Living and Dying.
These are 4 different stages that make up a person entire life.
Some sees all of these as opposites, yet aren't they truly just part of a whole?
Now, autumn is here - the leaves are changing colors and beginning to fall. We see the majesty of nature - slowing down, withering and going within.
Can we say the same thing about dying and death? When our loved one is nearing their end of life, dying, they begin to go within. Their bodies, and life cycles, slow down, the internal systems tend to shift and change, all of which gives us an indication that time is changing and will enter a new passage of time.
And yet after a death, a birth or rebirth can occur. We see life eventually expanding again and we see seeds of new awareness enriching our lives. The ability to see just how impermanent life is and why we get to try to stay present, to be alive and live with purpose.
"To live is to die, and to die is to live and it's the great paradox of autumn that it is so beautiful, and yet everything is dying".
Shakespeare writes ~
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
Recognize the beauty autumn brings in both life and in death.
The autumn equinox symbolizes the first days of fall, usually lasts only 12 hours, and it occurs usually during the 3rd week of September.
Spiritually, the autumn equinox is the practice of gratitude for the year (the harvest) and the clearing of space for an evolving new beginnings and growth.
Each season of our lives brings enlightenment and fall is not exception. Fall represents changes in nature and in our souls. When we realign with activities and people that add meaning, we get to grow spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Slowing down, rebalancing and rejuvenation are all benefits of autumn equinox rituals, which allows each of us to go within and recenter.
Most people I know seem to be on a spiritual or a religious path, in which they dig deep to find meaning in their lives. The same thing happens when one is nearing the end of life, or after a person has died. We go within, we seek purpose so that we can remain connected to people and events that are important in our lives.
Cultivating autumn rituals help us to connect to our core values and to the essence of whom we are as humans, a framework to our inner beings.
Find an autumn ritual that you can continue to grow, so that you can nourish the seasons of change.
Light a cancel and focus on the flame to calm the mind.
Discover what is in balance, and what is out of balance in your life.
Ask yourself what you need to bring more into your life, and what you need to let go in your life.
Attend to nature and pay attention to what is happening in the trees and animals.
See the connection of the fall to our spirits, and understand the deep alliance it has to life, and lean into the shifting passage of time.
Seek silence, embrace and trust what comes to you in the varying rituals.
Designating time to go within and to seek what brings you meaning, is an important avenue for self care, which is really, self repair.
Our life, like seasons, have purpose, and when we take the time to recognize the need for space, we can become even more mindful of what is important to us.
Our lives - which include not only the physical, but the mental and spiritual make up our essence. What we focus on, where we place our valuable time and with whom we spend our precious commodity with - all create whom we are and what is important to us.
At the end of life, life becomes really simple. There is not a great need for more stuff, more money or more prestige. There is, however, plenty of room for love, serenity and compassion.
The more we can focus, now, on what brings value to our lives, the more we can live with fewer regrets. We seek with purpose and we receive plenty of gratitude.
Space can help us to slow down, reevaluate and realign with what, and whom, matters most. Introspection helps us to identify what, in our life, needs cleaning up, keeping or discarding.
Here are a few ways to create space, so that your soul can open up ~
Declutter - not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
Making space for people/events that bring joy, not obligations.
Gratitude - a healthy, and daily dose, of what we are grateful for.
Release yourself from thinking you know best and keep an open mind.
Reaffirm to yourself, that autumn brings the much needed space for stillness, to go within, refocus and recenter.
Most of us, depending on where we are in the world, are stepping away from the long and hot summer days and are entering the shorter and cooler days ahead.
Fall is the time of year, where we again see changes in our surroundings, attuning ourselves not only to the changes of nature, but also to progression of our lives.
Shorter days give us the opportunities to go within, reflect with our past and perhaps to prepare for our future - gaining a better understanding of what our true essence is and how to incorporate a way of living to achieve it.
At the end of ones life people often become very reflective and seek to find meaning in past events. Let's not wait until we, or our loved ones, are approaching end-of-life.
Let's get proactive, NOW, and start taking time to prepare by ~
Looking at what matters most and realign your values to what you chose to bring into your life.
Get centered. Go within. Connect to your roots, Nourish your soil. NOW.
Hygge - pronounced hue-gah is "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being" (which is a defining characteristic of Danish culture).
Hygge is a Norwegian word and it translates loosely as well-being and as " the quality of being warm and comfortable that gives a feeling of happiness".
Isn't autumn the perfect time of year to begin cultivating your focus on people and events that bring contentment and comfort, while allowing your spirit and body to rest and recharge?
Taking the time to see the moments in your life to create meaning and purpose are profound ways to connect to the coziness of autumn, yet we often get too busy doing life, rather than going within and seeking.
Being in the moment, being present and slowing down allows us to cultivate what is important and set aside precious time for friends and loved ones.
Life is short, and highly unpredictable, and if we take the time now to merge ourselves to what brings purpose, we too, can be comfortable with the slowing of time during fall.
Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate Hygge into your life now ~
Be with people that bring joy and contentment.
Reduce time dedicated to those that do not bring peace.
Be mindful and pay attention to the wonders of life.
Sunrise, sunset, crisp air, puffy clouds & leaves changing are fascinating.
Seek experiences that bring joy versus those that just fill time.
Snuggle with a blanket, drink a warm soothing beverage and light candles.
Use the fall phase of life to create an atmosphere and environment that dedicates itself to filling the soul with wonder, creativity and stillness. Create purpose and hygge.
If you are lucky enough to live in an area where the leaves change colors, the air becomes crisp and cool, the days become shorter, yet they are set among bright blue skies and migrating birds, then you are lucky enough.
Autumn is an opportunity where we can slow down, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually, and reflect on what we have experienced and lean into the awareness of what is truly important in your life.
Seek a connection to the deeper meanings of ~
Time and change
Wonder of the unknowns
Retreat to the comforts of home
Creating the balance of doing and being
And let go of what is no longer working in your life
Reconnect to the stillness and the beauty of autumn and be true to yourself.
Why would anyone want to take time to explore death, dying and grief?
Believe it or not, a fair amount of people are actually hungry to talk about death. However, some feel odd about wanting to discuss, some have not been given the opportunity to do so and others are unsure just about how to go about engaging in these conversations.
Death exploration can lead to a healthier outlook on life. A Necessary Conversation uses The 3-E's (explore, empower, enrich) the life, and end of life journey's. We have discovered that when people engage in these conversations, and do work around the fears, anxieties and wishes, more serenity and peace is found when they experience these life events.
Most of us have some kind of anxiety around death, dying and grief, but when our society denies or ignores these natural parts of life, we become ill-prepared for the emotions and reactions.
Death explorations allows us, in a safe place, to discover what our beliefs systems are, what are wishes are when entering end-of-life, while sharing these discoveries with our loved ones, and asking them if they are able to walk with us, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
We cannot change what we do not acknowledge. And when we don't acknowledge end-of-life matters, we deny ourselves and our loved ones the amazing journey to be present when the time comes.
Time - we assume we have all the time in the world.
We go about our daily activities, sometimes numb as to how we went from one activity to another.
Why is it important to value time?
Most importantly, because we do not know just how much time we, or our loved ones have left.
It is shocking when someone we know or love dies unexpectedly. We are left confused, shocked, angry. It is terribly hard to understand that one minute a person is on this earth, and the next they are not.
When someone has an illness or a drawn out death, again, we are often shocked at the finality of death. Some say, "but I knew it was coming, why is it so hard"?
Death is why we get to value time.
During life, and especially at the end-of-life, we tend to be gifted with an awareness of just how precious time really is.
We are all very busy, and as time passes on, there seems to be more commitments and requirements put additional constraints on our time. To be mindful of just how valuable, and limited, are time is, takes practice and willingness.
There is so much wisdom at the end-of-life, and the following article articulates 9 regrets that dying speak about. Their knowledge of what truly is important is so valuable for those living, if we just slow down and be mindful, that we too, can reduce the regrets of wasting time by focusing on:
Being more loving to the people who matter most.
Being a better spouse, parent or child.
Not spending so much time working.
Taking more risks.
Being happier and enjoying life more.
Living your dream.
Taking better care of yourself.
Doing more for others.
Choosing more meaningful work.
A Necessary Conversation encourages everyone, especially those that are healthy, to "Live Death Aware" so you are being more present in time and focusing time with those people or events that are meaningful.
Money can buy a lot of stuff in our lives, but it cannot buy us more time when facing the end-of-life (EOL).
It is often said that no one (on their death bed) has ever stated...."I wish that I had spent more time at work".
However, what has often been witnessed as one nears EOL, is people stating:
Notice the words "I wish". These quotes are expressions of those dying, of wanting to re-do some things in their lives.
It is NEVER too late to begin to "Live Death Aware" and to chose to use The 3-E's to Explore, Empower, Enrich your life journey (which will include death).
Be wise and gain a deeper understanding of how valuable your time truly is.
What does using time wisely have to do with being death aware?Everything!
Unlike other precious commodities, time cannot be hoarded, collected or bought. We are all equally given the same 24 hours a day.
Time is freely given to use, to use how we wish (of course, this really only applies after we balance all of our daily responsibilities).
After we finish our daily requirements, if we are lucky, we have additional free time that we get to decide where and how we use it.
When one "Lives Death Aware", one is tapping into the acceptance that we truly have very limited time. With this awareness, and if one chooses, one gets to allocate time with people or events that bring joy and contentment. One is also more conscious of what depletes ones essence, and therefore, we have choices.
To "Live Death Aware" is to live in the moment, not rushing through the day, focusing on what matters, consciously bringing contentment into our lives and being able to give back to others in a meaningful way.
"How we spend our days, is how we spend our lives" - Annie Dillard
Learn new ways to help you "Live Death Aware"!
Time - it continues to go on, regardless of what is going on in our lives.
When I was younger, I felt as if time dragged on. I couldn't wait for time to pass, because I wanted to get older. Now that Im older (Im not old) I feel as if time is going by too quickly. I want to slow it down. I want to enjoy the little moments. I want to breathe and be (I think this is what they call living in the moment).
Learning to stay in the day, is not always an easy task. I have to work at it. However, as time has passed (no pun intended) I have been given the gift of some hard lessons to learn that once time leaves, I don't get a redo.
Time can teach me about life, that is if I am willing to set some valued time aside so I can pause and reflect, and at times, meditate, just how precious of a gift time is.
Hopefully you will find a quote or two that reminds you just how time is passing and to be in the moment as much as possible.
Here's my favorite:
"Time is free, but it's priceless.
You can't own it, but you can use it.
You can't keep it, but you can spend it.
Once you've lost it you can never get it back."
– Harvey Mackay
Each of us are given the exact same amount of time ~
24 hours a day x 7 days a week = 168 hours a week.
This time is for us to use, how we wish (after we finish our obligations of family, job, commitments etc).
However, we often live our lives as if we have all the free time in the world, not paying too much attention to how much time we spend on things, events and with people, that do not necessarily fill our hearts and souls with contentment.
Often, it is only in retrospect, and normally after a death of a loved one, that we tend to see just how precious our free time is. For a period of time after a death, we recalibrate our lives to meet our priorities of just what is important in our lives.
When we take the time for stillness, by focusing on the gift of time, we begin to place much more significant value in this limited resource, realizing that we get to choose how and where we spent our free time.