Helpful Things to Say
When someone you care about is grieving it’s natural to want to say or do something to provide even a fleeting moment of comfort. Sometimes, one of the greatest gifts you can give is to just listen or to sit in silence and just witness their mourning. Try not to be uncomfortable with their tears or strongly worded emotions.
When it’s time to speak, doing so simply and from your heart is always best. Here are some examples of things said to me that I received well:
- “I feel like I don’t know what to say, I just want you to know I care.”
- “I’m sorry for your loss.”
- “I can’t even imagine what you are going through.”
Sharing positive stories about the deceased and how they touched your life can also help show the impact one life has on another and bring a measure of comfort. I loved when people shared their favorite memories of Jerry. Some, like those shared by former co-workers were tales of funny work escapades that reinforced how great Jerry’s sense of humor had been. It made me feel good to know other people were remembering him with a laugh.
My very favorite though was when Jerry’s grandson sent me a note and reminded me of a funny little mannerism: he used to zip his jacket all the way up and then slide it back down a few inches. It was something I had seen him do a million times, but until Nate reminded me, it had gotten lost in my grief. Recovering that one small memory brought me joy and comfort.
Emails, cards, texts and phone calls sent weeks and even months later helped alleviate the intense feeling of loneliness. I will always be especially grateful to the friend, also widowed, who remembered my wedding anniversary that first year and sent me flowers.
You might also find it helpful to review the article “10 Things Newly Widowed People Want You to Know.”
Not So Helpful Things
There are some things to avoid to the extent humanly possible. This includes things like telling the widow/widower how they should grieve or what they should do (or not do). Here are some examples of things NOT to say:
- “Don’t cry.”
- “It was God’s will.”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “He/She is in a better place.”
- “God needed him/her more.”
- “Now you have your own angel.”
- “Time heals all wounds.”
- “He/She would want you to be strong.”
- “You just have to have faith that this was for the best.”
- “You never get more than you can handle.”
- “You’ll bounce back from this in no time.”
- “I know just how you feel, when my dog died last year …”
- “It’s for the best, he/she was suffering.”
- “You’re lucky you had him/her for so long.”
- “You just have to move on now.”
- “At least you won’t be at the doctor (or hospital) all the time now.”
- “You’ll find someone else.”
- “He/she should have” – fill in the blank (lost weight, quit smoking, quit drinking, not drove so fast, gone to a counselor, not been out that late at night, etc.)”
- “You should hurry up and get rid of their clothes and belonging so they won’t remind you of him/her.”