What Can I Say That Is Really Helpful in Times of Grief?

The grief is terrible, but it can also be awkward. If someone you know is grieving , it can be difficult to know what to tell them – or, more importantly, what not to say. Of course, you have good intentions and want to make things better, not worse. Here’s what you need to know.

Dear Lifehacker! This year has been very difficult for me. A close friend of mine has passed away, and several other people I know have also lost their loved ones. I never know what to say or how to act in moments like this. What can I say when nothing seems right or sounds like a cliché?

Signature without picking up words

Dear Stone, we’re sorry to hear that. It’s hard not to find the words. When someone close to you is grieving, words are never enough. However, expressing your concern and support can benefit the other person as well as you.

While some salaries may state that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to help someone grieve, there are definitely things you can say that can cause some damage – even unintentionally. Lifehacker spoke with several mental health experts and those familiar with bereavement to find the best way out of this awkward and difficult situation that, unfortunately, we all face.

What shouldn’t be said

Certain phrases and advice, even if it is made with the best of intentions, can make others feel worse and worsen their grief. In general, try to avoid:

Comparing their loss to yours : When someone dies, it makes us reflect on our own experiences, but the words “I know exactly how you feel – when my mother / friend / dog died last year …” are disappointing. Even if you are trying to help or connect with empathy, it can be offensive to the other person, as if you are trying to minimize the pain he or she is experiencing.

Andrew Moore, a licensed professional HSC consultant at the University of Oklahoma, tells Lifehacker that even if there are similarities to your experience, their experience is still unique to them. Each death is also unique. According to clinical social worker Stuart Strauser, a more appropriate response might be to acknowledge – without guidance and empathy – that this is a difficult time, for example, “It must be very difficult and I can’t really understand what it should be like. Now. “Then use more comforting words or gestures of support (see below).

Talk about the afterlife or add religious remarks : If you don’t know and share the other person’s beliefs, words like “he’s in a better place now” or quoting Bible verses can indeed be offensive, or at least meaningless. Joanna Parker, MA, CT, LPC of Duke University Medical Center provided us with Duke handouts with helpful and less useful phrases. In a less useful section: “This Was the Will of God” and “God Never Gives Us More Than We Can Endure.”

Also, avoid words such as “at least they are with their husband / wife / father / mother / child in heaven.” Again, the grieving person may not believe in heaven, and this is useless anyway.

Minimizing a person’s pain or trying to “fix” pain : Other useless remarks include: “We all have to deal with loss,” “Time heals all wounds,” “Everything always works out for the better,” and “I can.” I don’t believe people actually say that, but it’s in the Herzog handout: You’re Young Enough to Have More Children.

Asking them about a funeral / commemoration / commemoration: this should be self-evident, but when a person loses a loved one, try not to bother him by asking about the organization for the deceased. They are likely stuck with service scheduling, canceling cell phone plans and closing bank accounts, and answering unfairly a simple question that you could answer yourself via a Google obituary search. If you can’t find the obituary – or it hasn’t been published yet – you can reach out to a family friend who is at least a little out of touch and can help you.

Tell them to look at the “bright side” : when someone close to you dies, you probably don’t see the bright side, so if someone tells you to look at it, it won’t help at all. Examples of “flashy siding” might include “at least he / she is no longer in pain” or “think of all the other wonderful things that are in your life right now.” Both may have good intentions, but both should be avoided. Of course, you are glad that your loved one is not in physical pain, but if someone points this out to you, it will not make you feel better. And of course, you may have just started a great new job or planned an exciting trip, but again, pointing out the positive things in someone’s life is not as helpful as you think.

Telling them how to feel or how they would feel: Again, all perceive the loss of a loved one in their own way. Saying “you shouldn’t feel this way” can make the other person feel ashamed or feel guilty. Clinical psychologist Jeffrey DeGroat tells Lifehacker:

The process of grief is complex and involves many feelings: sadness, anger, anxiety and guilt, to name just a few. So, while you may be feeling sad, someone else may be angry. Instead of trying to convince the person not to get angry, just encourage them to talk about their thoughts and feelings and express their thoughts and feelings to them.

Also, don’t give the person a grieving schedule by saying, “Oh, you’ll feel better in two weeks.” Even if it was your own experience with grief, it does not mean that it is passed on to others. What’s more, it makes them feel like they need to be healed on time.

Likewise, it is useless to tell someone that the loss of a loved one “will hit you when you least expect it.” Saying that not only minimizes their current state of grief, but also tells them that it will get worse at some point in the future, which is not what they need to hear.

What can you say to help

Moore advises that you be sincere in your expressions of compassion, however simple they may be. What you say doesn’t matter as much as how you say it . Here are some good options:

“I am very sorry for your loss.” Yes, this is completely unoriginal, but it doesn’t matter here. If you knew a deceased person, you could add meaningful memories to them. When my previous boss died this year, I told his family, with whom I was close, how he was my mentor when I was a college graduate and one of my biggest supporters. I’m not sure if this helped them, but most families will probably appreciate you recognizing their loved one and their loss.

“I’ll call / text you in a few days to see how you are doing.” This and other offers of help (“Can I do something for you?” Or “I’m here for you if you need anything”) just remind the person that you care and that you will continue. make.

But please don’t contact this person all the time, demanding – or even waiting – for an answer. One way to do this is to send a text message: “I just wanted to get in touch to see how you are doing and let me know what I think of you. I know you have a lot of problems, so please don’t feel obligated to answer. “

“It’s okay to get lost for a while. You don’t need to know the answers right now. “ Samantha Light-Gallagher, whose husband was killed in the line of duty in 2010, says it was one of the many things people said helped her at the time. This gave her permission to mourn and flounder if need be – and breathe.

Recognizing that bitterness can be a potentially lengthy process can be beneficial to the individual, along with things like “take as long as you need to.”

What may and may not be appropriate?

“How are you?” “This simple question gives the victim an opportunity to tell their story,” says Moore. However, you must be careful when using it. For people close to you who you think would like to talk about their situation and feelings, this would be great – provided you ask when you both have time to really talk (or, in your case, listen ).

Depending on the circumstances and your relationship with the other person, this can be a terrible question. Several years ago, when my friend passed away, I asked his mom how she was feeling – just not knowing what else to say – and since then, her expression has haunted me. I hope you never see this look – the look of a parent who has just lost a child.

Chances are, if someone has just lost a loved one, they ‘re not okay – and that’s okay. And they are probably tired of: a) telling people exactly that; or b) pretend that everything is in order. As such, you will have to use common sense when deciding whether to ask the grieving person how they are doing and proceed with caution.

Express yourself in other ways

While it’s better to try to say something than ignore the topic (Light-Gallagher says that sometimes people just look at her and don’t say a word, so she learned to make small talk to ease the tension), sometimes your presence is all that has the meaning. … If you’re speechless, sometimes that’s just the right thing to say – nothing, ”says Strauser.

Acknowledge your loss and show your support in other ways. You can offer to bring dinner for the night or shop at the store, help with childcare or other business. A simple hug will do.

You can also send them gift cards for food delivery services like Grubhub or Seamless, or car services like Uber and Lyft. And there is always cash or Venmo; even the simplest funerals are devilishly expensive, so if the bereaved paid for it, they might appreciate the support. If they are not the kind of person who needs funds for themselves, you may want to consider donating money to charity on behalf of the deceased – regardless of whether it is related to the cause of their death (for example, the American Cancer Society or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) for which anything else they would appreciate (for example, public libraries, animal rescue organizations, or the food bank).

Finally, remember that everyone feels uncomfortable in these situations; however, the most important thing you can do is express your sympathy and give the victims an opportunity to talk or ask for help if they need it. And since death has a ripple effect on the people around the deceased, remember to take care of yourself.

Love, Lifehacker

This story was originally published on 9/6/12 and updated on 9/16/19 to provide more complete and up-to-date information.


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