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What not to say to someone who is grieving

When someone’s loved one passes away, it can often be difficult to know what to say to them. Grief and loss are never easy to talk about – but there are some things you might want to avoid saying to someone who is grieving.

“God never gives you more than you can handle.”
Not everyone is going to follow the same religion as you. Their ‘God’ might be different to yours, or they might not follow any religion at all. It is always important to make sure you know whether the person you are making this statement to actually does believe in God. Remember, even if you mean well, this could come across as ‘empty sympathy,’ only say this if you are sure that it will be received well.

“You need to move on. He/she is not coming back.”
You would assume that this was fairly self-explanatory – but you wouldn’t believe how many people actually say this to someone, in an attempt to be comforting. When someone passes away, people tend to question their own meaning and purpose in life – they may even begin to live for the person that has passed away. By telling them that their loved one isn’t coming back, you are just solidifying information they already know. Instead, if you are trying to encourage healthy progression through their grief journey, suggest they begin to ‘move forward’ with their lives, as tentatively as possible.

“There is so much to be grateful for.”
In life, there is a lot to be grateful for. However, when someone passes away – that is not a time to promote ‘toxic positivity.’ Toxic positivity is the promotion of positive thinking in an unhealthy way and it encourages people to put a positive take on life, even in the face of tragedy. When someone experiences a loss, they are going to really struggle with looking at life from a positive perspective, which is completely understandable.

“They are in a better place.”
Similarly to the “God never gives you more than you can handle” statement, this one is definitely worth avoiding, especially if the recipient of this message isn’t religious or spiritual. By suggesting they are in a better place, could be interpreted that their life on earth wasn’t a good one. Although this might seem over-sensitive, someone who is grieving will probably be overthinking now, more than ever.

Every person is different; therefore, every grief journey is different and every grief need is different. What someone might find comforting, another might find upsetting. It might be important, if someone you know or love is on a grief journey, to ask them what they want. They won’t always know the answer to this, but reaching out will make all to difference to them and will probably mean more to then than the empty phrases listed above.

If you, or a loved one, is struggling as a result of their grief, here are a few helpful resources and links you might want to have a look at:

Cruse is a national charity aiming to help bereaved people.

Marie Curie give some incredible advice on what to do if you think you may need grief counselling.

The NHS mental health directory is full of helplines, websites and information, if you think your mental health is being affected.

By Rebecca Thomas