Things to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving
Though we’re all well acquainted with how to celebrate happy occasions with people, sad ones are more fraught with worry. It’s sad, it’s awkward, and it’s hard to know what exactly to say when someone you know experiences a loss.
Whether it’s a friend, coworker or acquaintance, it’s hard for all of us to find the right words to express sadness and sensitivity, and offer comfort during a hard time. It’s also normal to feel self-conscious and wonder about proper etiquette.
Here are some clear dos and don’ts that we always keep in mind when talking to someone that’s suffered a loss.
5 Things You Should Never Say
- “I know how you feel.” Grief is personal. You don’t know how they feel, and you shouldn’t risk minimizing their emotions.
- “It will be okay” or any variation including “This too shall pass, and Time heals all wounds.” Those sentiments may be true, but they’re not helpful to emphasize to someone in the midst of grieving.
- “You can have/find/meet another.” Whether it’s losing a child, a spouse or partner, or a close friend, the deceased is irreplaceable to the person in mourning.
- “They’re in a better place.” It’s not for us to judge a person’s level of suffering, and not helpful to cast death as a relief (for the deceased, or the people who lost them).
- “Focus on the blessings,” or anything else that forces a positive like “Cherish the wonderful memories,” or “S/he lived a good life.” A mourner deserves time to feel grief without guilt or the pressure of a social mandate to be grateful for what they still have.
5 Things You Can Say Instead
- “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Keep it simple and honest.
- “I’m here for you.” Reassure those in mourning that you’re there in their time of need.
- “I’d be happy to mow the lawn and pick up some groceries,” or any variation of that offer. Figure out what needs to be done and help out.
- “I love you.” Showing kindness and affection during a difficult time is often helpful.
- Actions speak louder than words. Sometimes words aren’t necessary—offering a hug or just sitting with the person can be enough.
Arielle Shipper, Sunset Contributor
What To Say To Someone Who Lost Someone FAQ’s
How do you cope with the loss of a loved one?
- Acknowledge your pain.
- Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.
- Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.
- Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you.
- Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.
- Learn More.
How do you help someone who is grieving?
- Be a good listener.
- Respect the person’s way of grieving.
- Accept mood swings.
- Avoid giving advice.
- Refrain from trying to explain the loss.
- Help out with practical tasks.
- Stay connected and available.
- Offer words that touch the heart.
- Learn More.
What to do first when someone dies?
- Get a legal pronouncement of death.
- Tell friends and family.
- Find out about existing funeral and burial plans.
- Make funeral, burial or cremation arrangements.
- Secure the property.
- Provide care for pets.
- Forward mail.
- Notify your family member’s employer.
- Learn More.