Thursday, August 23, 2012

Things NOT to Say to the Grieving

It is always a bit uncomfortable when you meet up with someone who has just experienced the death of close family member or friend.  Many people just avoid the topic all together or just avoid the grieving all together.  Some are afraid of the feelings that the grieving might express.  Emotions can be uncomfortable to deal with and you may wonder if you have ruined their day if they cry.  You haven't!

I still relish in the moments when someone asks me about Emmalee.  Even though I may tear up talking about her, it still helps me cope with her loss.  It also lets me know that people have not forgotten her.  Don't worry about the emotional response.  If your up to it ask more questions and just listen.  Just don't say some of the phrases below.

One of the phrases I dislike most is, "She is in a better place".  The implication is that it is okay that she died.  It is similar to saying, "God must have really needed her on the other side".  Which is another phrase I have come to abhor.  I am sure Emmalee is at peace and happy, so there is no need to tell me what I already know.

Unless you know someone well keep it safe.  "I am sorry for your loss", "My condolences", "I love you", "Lets go take a walk", "My thoughts and prayers are with you", "Tell my your favorite memory", and "Here is my number" are safe things to say.

Some other things to avoid saying, "She is your angel now".  I would rather her be my daughter still, than my angel.

"You must be strong now".  No, It is okay to acknowledge my feelings and express them.  Anything that suggest I should push my feelings aside is not helpful.

"She is out of pain now".  Yes she is, but it is not the right thing to say.

Bottom line is keep it safe, but if you know the person well you can add to the safe things according to their belief system.  Would you say to a grieving Buddhist, "I know she is with God now"?  Know what a person believes before you go outside of the safe things to say.

Steve Havertz is the author of "Dragonfly Wings for Emmalee" an inspirational book about the life and death of his daughter Emmalee.  At the end of this book he shares his personal and professional experiences with loss and give advice to those who are grieving.  He has been a licensed mental health therapist for over 20 years and an excellent speaker and motivator.     



GrahamForeverInMyHeart said...

Most people don't want to mention my child or say anything at all. I like your suggestion that people could ask about a favorite memory....or anything at all about my child.
The result of their silence is that there really is very little at this point that I can talk about with most people.

Steve said...

Thanks for your comment! I think people need to listen a bit more and not feel uncomfortable when someone cries.