The 10 Best and 10 Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief
The following is taken directly from David Kesslers, *Grief.com,
See listing for Peer to Peer Grief Educator
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.
Ways to Support a Griever
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?
Mustering the Courage to Mourn
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.