Etiquette of Grief
When we are confronted with the death of a loved one it is often awkward to know what to say to the family or other friends. There is an “etiquette” to grief. How we communicate our feelings or reactions to the death can either be helpful and supportive to the grieving person or our words can create stress, disappointment, and hardship for them as they feel we “don’t understand.” Below are some thoughts to consider before you speak when, with all good intention, you try to offer sympathy to another.
Some Comments That May Comfort
– I am sad for your loss.
– I’m thinking about you.
– I know this must be terribly difficult – it must hurt so much.
– I won’t forget him or her.
– She was a very special person because…..
– I’m here if you need me.
– I wish you the peace and comfort of warm memories.
– How lonely you must be.
– Let me take the children, fix a meal, mow the lawn, etc. Be
specific rather than “call me if you need me.”
Some Comments That May Hurt
– Time heals.
– I know how you feel.
– It must have been God’s will.
– Aren’t you happy he is with God now?
– God took her because she was so good.
– You are the man/woman of the house now.
– You are fortunate that it wasn’t like….
– You have to be strong for your mother or whomever.
– Don’t cry. He wouldn’t have wanted you to cry.
– If you have enough faith you will accept this loss and it
won’t be difficult.
After a miscarriage or death of a newborn/child – What not to say…
– You are young you can have more children.
– At least you have other children.
– You can try again.
– It’s better that it happened now.
– Most people like to hear the name of their loved one
spoken and stories shared about them. Don’t be afraid to
do that with your family or friend. Be specific about the
personal qualities or experiences you appreciate in your
memory of the relationship with the deceased.
– Don’t be afraid to address someone as “Mrs.” Even though
they are a widow. Using their marital title allows that
person to keep a part of the identity they are fearful of
– Continue to include your friend or family member in
outings or events you used to do as a couple or group.
– Stay in touch – fight the inclination to “drift” away from
the relationship that used to be special between you even
if you are unsure of how to keep the relationship going.
– Don’t be afraid to ask your family/friend what they need.
Offer to find resources that could help with specific needs,
or offer to shop for groceries, take them to dinner, or pick
up for church. Sometimes it is difficult for a newly grieving
person to know how to “fit in” in even familiar situations.