WHAT NOT TO SAY
THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK :) "Would I want to hear this as a griever?"
Although our first instinct is to give advice, or say something that sounds soothing, think about how your words will be heard. We are taught to find the positive, the lesson, the silver lining in every situation - but there are none of those in death.
I'm going to break this up into 2 parts: (1) topics to avoid and (2) specific statements.
(1) TOPICS TO AVOID:
- Platitudes and positivity quotes.
- These seem to work on everyone except a griever. They usually end up hurting more than healing. We can not be fixed. Our void can not be filled. Trying to fix us is hurtful, but trying to learn and better understand our feelings is helpful.
- Talk about the future.
- Grievers live in survival mode. The world is seen differently through the grief lens. Talking about the future is overwhelming. We are usually living for the moment or the day. Stay present with us and avoid talk of the future.
- Complaints and negativity.
- Although this is usually never healthy for us, I'm specifically talking about early grief. The woman who took too long in the grocery store line is a story to avoid with a griever. Our focus is on our loss and nothing compares to that in the moment.
- Specific topics that are triggering.
- This is person specific. In order to understand the triggers, you can open up a conversation to learn more about their triggers and what topics make them feel uncomfortable to talk about.
(2) SPECIFIC STATEMENTS:
- Everything happens for a reason.
- WHY NOT?: There's no reason this should happen to me. I didn't do anything to deserve this pain and suffering.
- It's all in God's plan.
- WHY NOT?: Accidents, diseases and tragedies happens. No matter if we are religious or not, “God’s plan” is a statement to avoid. This feels like it’s no one's plan. It feels unbearable that someone would choose this for us. No matter what you believe, try to keep religion out of the “reason” this happened. It feels impersonal & avoidant.
- What happened?
- WHY NOT?: If they are ready to tell the story, they will tell you. Instead say, "I'm sorry about what happened."
- You're not over that yet?
- WHY NOT?: This should be a given... we will NEVER be "over it." We never move on. We move forward and carry our grief with us.
- Hope you're doing ok.
- WHY NOT?: If you're looking to ask how someone grieving is doing, "Hope you're doing ok." closes the conversation before it's started. FYI, I'm probably not doing "ok". Instead, say "I know everyday is different. I hope you are surviving through it today. I'm thinking of you and here for you."
- You're young, you'll meet someone new.
- WHY NOT?: It's not about someone new. It's not about anyone else but the one we lost.
- You're strong/resilient.
- WHY NOT?: Was I not strong or resilient before? I don't have a choice.
- "At least..." statements.
- WHY NOT?: We tend to use "at least" statements to find the positives in situations. With death, there are no positives. Instead, sit in our grief with us. It's refreshing to hear, "I know this sucks. I'm here for you." Just admit what we already know, THIS SUCKS.
- He is in a better place.
- WHY NOT?: Again... this should be a no-brainer. He'd be better here with me.
- Why don't you...
- WHY NOT?: Unless you've gone through grief and are helping out with your experiences, stay away from suggestions of what we should be doing.
- Don't use comparisons.
- WHY NOT?: This isn't the grief olympics. You don't get a medal here & you don't want one.
- I can't imagine.
- WHY NOT?: Yes you can. You can imagine dinosaurs, monsters, quicksand etc. You've got a big imagination. You can imagine it, you just can't feel it.
- You're going to be fine.
- WHY NOT?: I'll never be fine. I am a different person - I've changed. I will carry my grief forever.
- I know you'd rather not talk about them.
- WHY NOT?: This is such a huge misconception. We are ALWAYS thinking of our loved one - whether we are talking about them or not. We LOVE talking about them. You'll never blindside us by bringing them up.