Most of the time, when we know someone who is grieving, we have no clue what to say. We often throw around ideas of what we could say in our heads, tossing them all out until we end up saying nothing.
Trust me, as someone who has now lost someone very near and dear to me, I can say, it is better to say something. Grief can be very isolating.
Here are my 5 top things to say to someone who is grieving.
1. I don’t know what to say, except that I am so sorry.
You don’t even have to know what to say! In fact, sometimes it is even more hurtful when people act like they know exactly what to say and how to say it, like they are dismissing your grief. This statement acknowledges that this is something too big and deep for words.
2. I’ve been thinking about you and praying for you.
This one is a tough one because it is only meaningful if it is offered deeply and sincerely. I had someone from church tell me this while holding my arm and looking into my eyes, and it meant a lot. However, I have heard in other contexts used kind of flippantly and that bothered me more than helped.
3. What were they like? Can I see pictures of them?
We often hate talking about dead people to those that are grieving them, but that is exactly what grieving people hate! They want to celebrate this person that they love and share the good. I had a stillborn baby, and so I don’t even have live pictures of Joseph, and yet I love to share what he was like and show pictures. It means a lot to me when people want to know him.
4. What’s it like to lose your baby/parent/spouse/sibling/etc.?
I got this question once, and it was beautiful. I felt like someone wanted to understand and sit with me in my grief and it meant the world to me. Plus, if you are looking for a way to help, this is a great place to start getting to know where they are and how they are doing.
5. I’ve lost, too. Not in the same way, but my heart hurts for you.
We never want to assume that we know exactly what someone else is going through, and I’m not saying that you should, but everyone from toddlers to octogenarians have some context for grief and disappointment. This is a human experience we all have in common, from not getting the toy we wanted, to miscarriages, to illnesses, to breakups, to moving away from friends, and more. You can find some context for what this person is going for and listen to understand more.
I hope this helps! Next week we’re going to talk about the worst things you can say to someone grieving a loved one.