When our friends or loved ones are suffering a loss, it’s easy to feel helpless in consoling them. Often, we find ourselves tiptoeing around conversation in an awkward attempt to be there for them without making the situation even more difficult.
While we are usually well intentioned, it’s easy to say things that are unhelpful and even hurtful to our suffering loved ones. It’s in our nature to disrupt the discomfort of grieving with conversation, but while that may help us to feel more comfortable, it doesn’t necessarily feel the same for the person who is grieving.
Here are five things not to say to someone who is grieving:
1) Don’t say: It’s all going to be okay
While this may be true, the last thing someone wants to feel when they are grieving is that they are being rushed to get over a loss. It’s likely that the person knows logically that they will be okay, but in this moment, they may feel like the world is crashing down around them.
Try an alternative: “I’m sorry you are suffering right now.” This statement acknowledges their pain and lets them know that it’s okay to grieve.
2) Don’t say: They’re in a better place
During such a heartbreaking time, your grieving friend is probably fixated on the fact that the person they lost is now gone and won’t be around anymore. This statement only emphasizes that the person is gone—the most difficult part of a loss.
Try an alternative: “This must be really tough for you.” When you’re consoling someone, try to focus more on the person who is experiencing the pain rather than the person they’ve lost.
3) Don’t say: It’s part of life
While this statement may be true, it also minimalizes the pain your loved one is feeling. Even if we are grieving the loss of an elderly family member or parent and they’ve passed from natural causes, it doesn’t take away from the pain we feel.
Try an alternative: “I’m sure you really miss them.” Acknowledging the source of the pain rather than brushing off a death as part of life will help you to sympathize with your loved one.
4) Don’t say: I’ve been through the same thing
Sure, you may have experienced plenty of loss in your own life. But recognize that each person has their own threshold for pain, and your suffering doesn’t take away from your loved one’s. Each of us handle loss differently and it can feel invalidating to focus the attention on yourself.
Try an alternative: “I can imagine that this must be really hard for you.” Remember, you are there to focus your attention on the source of the pain, not detract from it with your own experiences.
5) Don’t say: Nothing
Yes, grieving is uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, but saying nothing at all can leave your loved one feeling alone in their struggle.
Try an alternative: “I remember when…” Reflecting on a positive memory of the person your loved one has lost can be healing. You don’t necessarily have to have been close to that person, but it can give your loved on a positive perspective to remember them by.
If you or someone you love is struggling with grief, counselling can help. Working one on one with a therapist, you can learn to embrace your grief and develop healthy behaviours to help manage the emotional pain and continue living a happy life. Call Your Counselling today for a free consultation.