Almost 6 years ago I lost my father, it was a sudden death, recorded cause of death was a pulmonary embolism. In a space of 15 minutes he was gone. This fit non-smoker and non-drinker man was snatched away from my life in a matter of minutes. All of a sudden I have to live my life consume by grief. I had many sentiments from friends and strangers (those who knew him but not me) I understood their needs of showing sympathy and acknowledging that they care in their own way but some of the things said were unintentionally inappropriate. You simply cannot understand the power of grief until you go through it. Next time you come face to face with someone who is grieving here are some things NOT to say. These were said to me.
- “You seems to be coping alright”- Just because someone is carrying on with their daily tasks doesn’t mean that they are coping with the death of a loved one. You have absolutely no idea what goes on behind closed door and making assumptions that they are coping will hurt their feelings. Trust me, it will! The best thing to say is “how are you coping?” and it will be up to them whether they share their feelings with you. If they don’t, do not feel offended because they are not ready to do so and you should respect that.
- “Were you close?”- What kind of question is that? Someone’s relationship with the person they’ve lost is what makes the grief real. Whether they were close or not is irrelevant because when you lose someone your grief takes you on a ride of memories of this person, good or bad it will have a profound effect on you.
- “Everything happen for a Reason”- What does that even mean in regards to losing someone? You have just lost your father and someone who wants to make you feel better tell you that there is a reason why he passed and the reason can be justified. By who? No matter of the circumstance of someone’s death, please never, ever, tell a grieving person that it happened for a reason.
- “Call me if you need anything”- The chances of them calling is remote. When someone is grieving they do not want to be a burden on anyone and sharing their vulnerability is not something that will come easy and that is why they will not call you. However if you really care, you should be the one calling and making sure that they know that you care. Grief doesn’t go away overnight, in a week, a month or a year for that matter so keep the calls coming even if someone doesn’t open up to you. The simple gesture of showing them that you are thinking of them will ease the pain a little. Do not ask them to call you because they won’t!
- “God will never give you more than you can handle”- As a Christian, I got this one quite a lot and it is probably one that made me quite angry. I find it very cliché; someone is supposed to be able to handle the death of someone because they believe in God. Are you telling them that because they are Christian they can handle this one? As a human being we are not meant to handle pain alone and comment like that will actually stop people from asking for help because they are supposed to be able to handle it. You will make someone feel like their faith is not strong enough because they cannot handle this pain of losing a loved one.
If you have not experience grief, all I will say is, if you come face to face with someone grieving think before you say something because you can cause more hurt although not intentionally.
If you have experience with grief, what were the best or worst things people said to you?