What not to say to someone grieving

In the world we live in, if you haven't lost someone you love then you're lucky and in the minority.

One of the hardest things when navigating through grief, other than the obvious passing of someone you love is that things other people say can be hurtful. They're not hurtful because they're said with malice, I actually truly believe the things said are often phrases we've heard others say so we believe it's appropriate and repeat.

All of these phrases were submitted by members of The Honest Family so let's break them down and think about what could be said instead.

"Anything that starts with 'at least' " - Jennifer

This was is a common one, we're always looking for a reason.

"At least they were older" "At least they lived a full life" "At least you can get pregnant" As with pretty much everything else in this list of what not to say, it isn't said with any malice but more something that appears to be comforting from the outside. Trying to justify a reason behind someone leaving the people they love just isn't as comforting as it may sound.

Try instead: I'm so heartbroken for you, even though (insert name/relation) was older and they lived a full life, there just never. a time where you feel like you've had enough time with someone. I don't know how to make anything better but how about I make you a cup of tea and we talk about them together?

"They're in a better place" - Journalingmypregnancy

This was mentioned A LOT when I asked people what was said to them, i really do believe it comes from a place of love and hopefulness but when you've lost someone the only place you want them is with you. It feels as if there is no better place and it can feel like people are saying wherever they are is better than being with their family.

Instead try: I'm so sorry for your loss, I know I can't replace them or their presence but I'll be here for you whenever you need for as long as you need me to be.

I know what you're going through - Lauren

Even if the situation is the same, you still don't know how someone else feels. You may feel like saying it would be comforting because the person would feel less alone. I've found from speaking to people that this often feels like an empty phrase that has no meaning.

Instead try: I'm so sorry for your loss. I can only compare it to losing my XX and although it won't take away the pain, I found that this helped me.

"You'll get over it" - Mama.tiny

I mean, I don't really even need to cover why this isn't helpful. I know some people are very abrupt but when you're hurting and trying to navigate grief, the last thing you want to hear is that you'll get over it. It's unlikely you'll ever get over it, but you'll learn to live anyway.

Instead try: I'm rubbish at these sort of situations and I always tend to say the wrong things so I'm sorry if I say something insensitive. I want to help you but I don't know how...then hand over big bag of food

"If there's anything I can do let me know" I've never heard anyone making that call

This is true, if there's something you can do that would be helpful then do it. If you can cook them some dinners, look after the children, take them to appointments or even just do a weekly shop so they don't have to go outside.

'It's all in god's plan - Geekymam

According to the 'american survery centre' "Gen Z is the least religious generation yet" So whist making comments about God and religion may have been a comfort in the past, saying it to someone who doesn't have a belief in a God or even those who do that are hurting may not want to hear it. It's hard to know how you'll respond when someone you love dies and in the past I believe this was said a lot but with a declining belief in religion it's best to avoid unless you know someone does believe in a religion and they take comfort in feeling like their god has a plan

Try Instead: I'm am sorry for your loss, I know you don't practice a faith, I'm happy to share my thoughts with you if you feel it would bring you comfort but otherwise I'm happy to make you a cup of tea and sit and talk about (person that has passed).

'It's happened for a reason'

This one is a hard one, it's one that is said so frequently that it's easy to forget it's meaningless and can be quite hurtful. If the way you deal with sadness and grief is to look for reason, so they weren't in any pain or so they didn't have to fight then that's great BUT most people don't want to hear other people's opinions that there is a reason as to why something has happened. The reality is that nobody knows why and to guess and try to make sense of every situation can come across insensitive, even if it's meant with pure love.

Try instead: I was so surprised to hear about (insert name/relation). There truly is nothing I can say and I wish I could make it better by finding something comforting but the reality is losing someone you love is utterly shit and the only thing I can do is be here for you in any way I can to ease your grieving process.

"It wasn't meant to be"

This is something that was said to me after me after my son passed away and something I think is often said to people who have experienced a loss. I mean this might be the only one on the list that actually is offensive. To tell someone their baby wasn't meant to be is just hurtful and I'm not sure how many other ways it could be taken. Everyone deserves the right to feel like they belong and that their baby belongs so this statement is probably one of the worst.

Try instead: Pretty much anything to be honest.

If in doubt and you're at a loss for words, why not just try

"I'm so sorry for your loss, I don't know what to say"

I promise you, that is better than saying something you've heard someone else say in the past that actually has no meaning, depth and potentially could upset someone.

I've listed below more sayings that were sent in to me and I didn't have time to go in to each one in this blog post but maybe we will come back to this in the future if you found it helpful.

This list was compiled from an Instagram box where people submitted their comments.

"Time is a healer"

"You'll feel better in the morning when it's sunk in" Lozzlowe

"Everything happens for a reason" - Bibby_Penny

"Come on now it's been a while" - Solo Mummy Donor concieved

"Your husband didn't really want a baby so I'm sure he's relieved"

"It's ok, you can have another baby" Jess Amy

"It wasn't meant to be" - Adellec

They're in a better place, they wouldn't want you to be sad"

Miscarriage - At least you know you can get pregnant

At least you already have children

Hopefully you'll get some closure now you've had the funeral

Time is a great healer

You'll feel better soon

*When people just avoid you full stop*

Not even mention the person that passed away like they didn't exist

Least you got X number of years

If you'd like to share this with someone who may find it useful please do and tag us @thehonestfamily_



* indicates required

Contact form