Grief counseling advice

What NOT to say to a bereaved person

  • By grief and funeral care specialist Lianna Champ. Excerpted from MailOnline.

Grief counseling advice. Bereaved people don’t want to hear platitudes. What NOT to say:

1. ‘I know how you feel’

No, you don’t. This is one of the worse things you can say to a grief-stricken person. Even though we may share similar emotions, no two people will experience the same loss in the same way. It minimises the importance of the griever’s feelings.

2. ‘Let me know if you need anything?’

They won’t. Instead, put your words into action, e.g., ‘I’d like to cook a meal for you. Is Monday ok?’ or ‘I’m shopping on Saturday, what can I get for you?’ These practical offers are good for bereaved people. They feel supported and you feel useful.

3. ‘Time is the greatest healer’

It isn’t. Many people are still grieving years after their loss. We never recover from loss, all we can do is learn to live with it.

4. ‘At least they aren’t suffering anymore’

When someone dies after a long-term illness, it might be true that their suffering is over, but the griever’s suffering has only just begun. When grievers hear this, it minimises their sadness and can make them feel guilty about their grief.

5. ‘You need to be strong’

Grievers don’t need to be anything, they just need to be honest about how they feel. This statement only serves to say that what they are feeling isn’t important and they should hide their pain and show everyone how well they are doing.

6. ‘They’re in a better place now’

This is based on our own beliefs and we cannot know what anyone feels about an afterlife. This diminishes the importance of the grievers feelings and again suggests they should feel instantly better became their loved one, ‘is in a better place.’

7. ‘Don’t feel bad, be grateful for the time you had together.’ 

A griever can be grateful for the time shared with their loved one and also feel sad. In effect, you are saying if you feel sad, you are not grateful for the time you had together.

2 thoughts on “What NOT to say to a bereaved person

  1. Yes, all those things are wrong, and when my wife and my son’s died four years apart, we heard them all. Of course there were the few that said nothing at all, and sometimes that is as bad as saying the wrong thing.

  2. I am sorry for your loss, Phil, you and your wife — man, that was a tough one — but if there’s a blessing to be found here, it’s that your son left you with a daughter who is now your cool granddaughter tooling around West Texas in that trusty car you gave her.