When death occurs, in the bid to be sympathetic, people sometimes end up saying insensitive and annoying words.
Good intentions are not enough, the person grieving is not seeing the good intention behind your words. I myself may have been guilty of this myself in the past, and knowing what to say is not taught in any school. The beauty of life is that we can learn from experiences.
The first thing to have in mind is that a grieving person is at a very vulnerable point in their life.
Be more conscious of words and how they are presented. It is actually better to stay mute if you lack the right words to say, than say things that may end up upsetting the grieving person.
Also worthy of note, if a grieving person does not want to talk with you, this is not the time to take it personal. It is not about you.
Personally, I did not pick the calls of a lot people because I was not in the mood to, I also was not ready to give answers to curious questions that I myself had no answers to. Some calls that I did pick initially were starting to get on my nerves and I had to protect my mental sanity.
Bad news does travel very fast, and it’s amazing the number of people that hear about a death in record time.
A grieving person needs time to grieve in whatever way they deem fit. They can cry, be sad or be angry and it is not your place to tell them to get over it. There is no time limit on grief. People react differently to situations and have different levels of sensitivity to words.
Based on my personal experience, here are some things you should not say to a grieving person.
• It’s not the end of the world, death comes to us all
• You are so strong/Be strong. I got this countless times. No, I am not strong, and I did not want to be strong in the sense that the word was used.
• Let me know If you need anything. Its best not to make this statement if you really don’t mean it. Its a generic statement, and many who say this don’t really mean it. If you really want to show your availability, you can instead say something like, Let me get you a meal, what would you like? Do you mind me getting you something from the shop? etc.
• I know how you feel. This was one statement that really got on my nerves. No, you really do not know how I feel. It’s not your experience and even if you have also lost a loved one, no two experiences are exactly the same.
• She/ he has lived her life or Its his/her time.
• So what happened?…/trying to dig for information. It is fine if the grieving person offers information, but don’t go probing.
• We should bury our parents and not the other way round. As much as this is true, this is not something a bereaved person wants to hear.
• At least your parent lived long enough to see you do this or that, mine did not. It makes it look like a competition, there is no need for comparison.
• God has a plan. I have faith and I believe in God but at the point of bereavement, I did not see why God’s plan would be to allow me lose a loved one.
The best things to say…
• A word of prayer for comfort/You are in my prayers.
• I am so sorry for your loss. This is a very simple statement and avoids all the awkwardness that comes with comforting a bereaved.
• You can say nothing at all. Sometimes just sitting there in total silence, and making your presence felt is all the comfort needed.
• I do not know how you feel, its OK to feel sad/angry, and I’m here for you. This acknowledges that you understand that the bereaved has every right to whatever feelings they have, even though you do not know what those feelings are.
• Hugs, lots of hugs. I used to be a awkward when it come to giving and receiving hugs, but in that situation I appreciated all the hugs I got and now I like hugs.
• You know He/she loved you. It is nice to sometimes to hear things you already know.
• Talk about how the deceased affected you positively
We all know that at the end of the day, there are just a few handful of people who really do care. So if you really care, this can help you to be better at showing that you care.
Don’t try to fix the situation, minimize the impact of the loss, make jokes or be judgmental about how they grieve.
I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word. Psalms 119 v 28