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What not to say to a grieving person...


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It is difficult to find the right words to comfort someone who is grieving, I heard a lot of people with good intentions make me feel worse. The funeral home gave me a pamphlet with a list of thoughts NOT to say to a grieving person :

1) "I know how you feel." The person in grief may want to scream, "No, you don't! No one knows how badly I feel!"

2) "Just call me if there is anything I can do." People in deep grief can't think straight or focus. They don't know what they need to do.

3) "It will get better." Grieving people know this intellectually, but in their heart they may feel so lost and alone.

4) "Now, now don't cry." It hurts us to see them cry and makes us sad. But, by telling them not to cry, we are trying to take their grief away.

5) "Your loved one is waiting for you over there," "God wanted him," "It was God's will," or "God knows best." Imagine how you would you feel about God after hearing such comments. Be very sensitive. Know the person's faith, and be in touch with your own.

6) Snap out of it - It wasn’t meant to be - You must be strong - H/she lived a good life - You must move on - It’s over with. Let’s not deal with it - Get a hold of yourself - You’re young - Others have it worse than you - H/she wouldn’t have been healthy - It is just nature’s way of dealing with a problem

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I have one that I honestly never found to be very comforting during a time of greif.

7.) God doesn't give you anymore then you can handle.

Well, I believe in God, but I have never seen this in a Bible. I have even asked Clergy about this, and they say, it's "man made" It's not written that way in the Bible.

Well, nor here nor there, I never found that to be great comfort during painful times.

8.) We all have to go sometime.

9.) God needed him/her more then you did.

10.) Life goes on.

11.) He/she wouldn't want you to carry on like this, they would want you to move on with your life. hummm! REALLY? !

I better not get started on this, I could go for hours.


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If I ever hear 'God never gives you more than you can handle" again I may.... well who knows. I hate that more than anything. When my husband died and I was trying to survive with 3 kids in a new town, my grandma repeatedly said that to me, and still does today. Anytime something "bad" has happened in my life, thats her way of telling me its ok and will get better. Well I for one have had enough!!


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When I said to a very good friend that I had guilt over not staying in the hosptial room with my father when he passed away and that I was generally depressed, she looked at me and said that she thinks that I should be over all by the 1 year anniversary. I told her to watch her father die and then tell me how it feels. The other day we were speaking on the phone and she was telling me about a younger guy at work who has stomach cancer. She saw him at the Christmas party and said he looked terrible, but he was upbeat. She said she had to leave the room for a while because it was hard to look at him, he weighed about 75lbs, she said. I felt awful for him. Then she turned around and said to me that I have no idea how much I was spared! I said, "I was spared!??". I couldn't even get the rest of what I wanted to say to her out of my mouth, I was floored. She said yes, you were. I saw your father a week before he died and he looked great. You were spared. One more comment and I am just going to tell her to please not give me advice on things she has no idea about.

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It was awful, she has no clue and I know I am going to blow the next time she says something. How dare she compare situations. I couldn't even speak after she said that, I thought of all the things I should have said after I hung up. You can't compare, you just cannot. Clueless and it hurts me that she even thinks these things. She should know, as close as she is to her father. I hope she is never in my situation.

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Those should all be posted in funeral homes like previously mentioned.

I had someone at work tell me that there is a postive side to any serious illness or disease. I kicked back in my chair and got ready for this (mind you I had only been back at work full time for two weeks). She told me that the positive side was that when you died you would go to heaven.

My first response was to come out of my chair and pin her to the floor and choke her (I wanted to show here where heaven was). Instead I said that I don't think that my children and husband could appreciate that and she explained to me that I would see them......I said I didn't want to wait 40+ years to see my children and she said that It wouldn't be bad, it would only seem like a day.

Once again I almost came out of my chair and choked her. Thank goodness someone heard the conversation and interupted and made her leave.

People are amazing!

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I agree these are all inapropriate things to say, but what do you think folks should say. The only thing I can think of is "I am so sorry" and that really isn't adequate.

I agree that people shouldn't ask what is needed but rather just help where it's needed.

I remember reading a story about a man , (in England,) who turned up at a friends home where he collected all the shoes in the house and pollished them!

In my case, some friends of mine, (I don't even know who they were, as no one would tell me,) gave my daughter, (at least I think my daughter was in cahoots with them although she still denies it,) a $100 dollar note to slip in my purse. I knew that I hadn't put it there as I have never kept so much cash on me, however I can tell you that I was so very grateful. It came in extremely handy while I was waiting for the cash to "flow" again, in fact, it was a life-saver. I will definately pass this kind deed on.


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Anais, This is a real eye-opener to me.I now realize I too have probably

said things with good intent not knowing how badly another person would like to have choked me.(I am not the best with words to begin with.)

I think it's great that some funeral parlors have this information,& it would be very nice to know for sure what to say that truly is acceptable to help someone in grief.

In my case from now on I'll think more befor I speak,& if I'm not sure what to say I'll keep quiet.

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I can't believe that you did not follow through and choke the holy snot out of her! The nerve!

I have gotten some unbelievable comments myself.


What can you say to comfort the living? Hardly a thing. Like Paddy said, I am sorry is appropriate, but so inadequate. I think the things that stayed with me the most were the people who truly loved the people that I did.

The ones who came to the funeral and told me in detail why my "love" ie: (mother, father, grandmother, brothers) were important to them personally. How my "love" enriched their lives. Anecdotes of what my "love" did that was a value to someone else. These were the things that brought me comfort. I was glad that someone else was in love with my "love" and that their lives were valuable for others.

Thank you, Anais.

Cindi o'h

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I REALLY have to disagree with the first one. Really, strongly. Most people DO know how it feels, most people HAVE lost a loved one in their life, stumbled through the realization, the anger, the hurt...not knowing what they NEED and just the raw emotional pain of a close relationship that has ended. Most people can reach back to that time and KNOW what they felt and that it has gotten a bit easier with time...

...and most people know that a deep grief will never completely go away, that there will always be an empty place in the heart aching for that lost person...

..and so they ask, "What can I do?" ...and "Call me if you need something."... Most people don't KNOW what to do to make it better, even in the throes of their previous grief, they didn't know what they needed - how could they be better equipped to help someone else's soul when they couldn't help their own?

I'm guilty of asking what I can do - I don't have many friends I visit at home and don't know where their soul lives. Grief is also a very personal emotion that a lot of people don't share if at all possible -ya gotta admit, breaking down in a grocery store is NOT a welcome thing. I don't think people are taught how to grieve "properly" nor are we taught how to ease someone's grief nor actively support them. (Editted for clarification here - having been one to break down in a grocery store, I can say that from MY perspective, that was very far from welcome....I was mortified to be crying uncontrollably into the milk cooler.)

Flowers and "I'm sorry" are so very inadequate....

So, any tips on what we SHOULD say? Should do? Polishing shoes wouldn't work for someone who only wears sneakers....but the financial aid is definitely a good thought...

Waiting for some true input on those questions, always learning while traveling through life.

Take care,


As an aside, a key phrase where I work is "There is no 'I' in 'team'." Well, for anyone who wonders, there IS an "I" in "kiss my butt"! :wink: Catch phrases should be outlawed before they are ever repeated....and way before they become a mantra...

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My feeling is that if people are trying to make us feel better, then they deserve credit for the attempt. There is nothing to be said that isn't insipid. There are no words to mitigate the pain. My favorite aunt was headed to a wake several years ago, and she said something that has stuck with me ever since. I am sorry and I will eat your pie. That is just about the best thing to say. I know I am sorry is woefully inadequate, but all words are.

But I think we as grieving people also have to have some responsibility for ourselves. When people are trying to say nice things, we need to give them credit for that even when they stay stupid things. When people are desperate to do something to help, we need to go out of our way to accept help. Take the food, let someone take out the trash, leave them opportunities to contribute somehow. Leave room for others to be helpful, and allow yourself to be carried a little by the love of the community that surrounds you.

That being said, the people who say get over it need to just can it. There needs to be room for examination and expression. And if a person doesn't want to be a part of that, then they need to not be there. That is fine. There are no boundaries; there is no part of our lives unaffected. And if we need to break down in the grocery store, then by God, let us break down in the grocery store. And if you don't like it, there is another grocery store around the corner. Go there.

But I do think it is important to remember there are countless people who are worse off. The whole reason I am mourning is that Becky is as beautiful a wife and mother as has ever lived. Billions of people never experience a marriage like I have had. Our grief should always be tinged with gratitude for the beauty that makes the pain possible.


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I agree that most people say things in desperation, trying to make it better, not realizing that saying "He's better off now" is not going to make you happier or feel better.

I had a friend who said "Everyone has to die sometime" after I lost my husband. That was the worst thing I had said to me and this person is no longer my friend.

Personally, I preferred to have someone just say "I'm so very sorry for your loss" and letting me talk without trying to cheer me up. Having them say they knew just how I felt because they lost a parent didn't help. I have lost both my parents who I dearly loved, and losing my husband was a whole other thing, which I never understood til it happened to me.

My first response was to come out of my chair and pin her to the floor and choke her (I wanted to show here where heaven was).

Thanks for the laugh. I know the feeling. :lol:

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I think the thing that hurt me the most was the people who didn't say anything......the ones the pretended everything was normal when I came back to work and never even acknowledged what I had been through and my loss.....

Most things that people say really won't heal our broken hearts....only we can do that.....most of the "wrong" things that were said to me were said in love and because they didn't know what else to say. Society has made death and dying an awkward situation.....

The things I remember the most were the people that said wonderful things about my mother....very specific...one neighbor told me how my Mom brought her food when she was sick and how much that meant to her. Another mentioned my Mom's roses and how beautiful they were. I loved hearing that my Mom had touched others as much as she had me.

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I heard everyone of those things. The truth is nothing helps. Nothing reaches deep enough to dull that pain that is ripping your insides out. I know too that people really don't know what to say and that makes them uncomfortable so they mumble some stupid things out of desperation and the need to say something.

What I needed more than anything was for someone to just be there and listen. Let me pour out my love and my heartbreak. Most of all I needed someone to acknowledge that Johnny existed. So many just acted like he had never been alive and the most vital part of my life. I would say his name and want to talk about him and people would just change the subject. It was as if they thought that by doing that I wouldn't think about him and hurt so much. I know their intentions were good but those things just made my pain more intense.

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Paddy doesn't it just seem like by not letting you talk about him that they are taking away what you have left? I felt like no one wanted to remember Johnny or to let me remember him. When I had no one to share the good memories with my mind kept going back to those last days and reliving them with all of the pain and desperation they had.

No matter how far I seem to have come there are still some things that I just can't handle. Today I thought that I would clean out some of my files, spacifically a file that contains many of Johnny's personal papers and cards that I had sent to him. That was a mistake!

I can't even look at the receipts for his oxygen without falling apart. I can't throw anything away that was his or from our time together. Just looking at those things shatters all of my assurance that I have worked so hard to gain. Every memory is still there and every nerve in my body aches with the pain of losing him. I have been in tears for the past two hours and don't know how to stop them. Does anyone else have this problem?

I did find a card that I had sent to him not long before I went to be with him. It says so clearly what I felt then and what I still feel. I would like to share it with you. Someone really knew how to say what was in my heart and still is.

" you probably know how much you brighten my life when we are together but do you know how much you brighten my life when we are apart?

When something exciting happens I think of you and I picture myself running to tell you all about it and we hug and share a laugh.

When I'm faced with a tough situation I think of you and imagine what you would do or what you'd say to help me through it

Even when there is nothing going on I think of you and your ability to make life's dullest moments fun.

You see even when you are somewhere else a part of you is always here with me." Leslie Kamp

How true and how painful those words are because now he is somewhere where I can't even call him and where I can't touch him and it breaks my heart all over again to see those words and know how true they are

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I felt very grateful for the people that said anything at all-for making the attempt. But man some of these things listed. I could really have done without.

The best for me-as others have mentioned are the people who took the time to tell me the stories about how my mom touched their lives. And even I'm sorry- while completely inadequate- was enough for many of the people I know.

And I have to add that my least favorite is the "call me if I can do anything". Sitting here now a month out from the funeral, I think- why can't those people just do instead of waiting for me. I wish my really close friends would know enough to just come grab my kids for an hour or call me for a night out. And I know I can ask. And I know I should ask. But there's just something about not having too. Something about having people so close to you that they understand to just DO.

Thanks for a good post!


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