Before I lost my sister a year ago, I had no idea what to say to someone who was grieving the loss of a loved one. Honestly, I was clueless. I avoided them because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. No one near me had ever died. My grandparents all died before I was old to enough to remember. I lived a perfect, happy life; free of death and mourning; free of anger or questions for God.
Then September 23, 2011 happened. The darkness that surrounded my family was enormous. Our house sounded like something off a horror movie. Random sounds of weeping, fists banging on walls in anger, and screams from the nightmare that we endured was something that I will never forget. I can’t describe the deep, dark pit that we were in for several weeks.
Where are you, God?
The emotions emerge as I write this.
It’s hard to be around someone who is grieving. You wouldn’t want their sad world to cloud your happy world, right?
“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” – Ecclesiastes 7:2
How can we help? What can we say?
Here’s a list I put together that may help you if you encounter someone who lost of a friend or loved one. These are things you should NEVER say:
1. “Everything happens for a reason.”
This is my favorite one that I just want to sock ’em in the eye for. I mean, really? My sister died for a reason? What reason was that? Oh, it won’t be revealed yet? Blah. My sister’s life LIVING could happen for a reason. She was only 27 when she died, she could have done so much more…FOR A REASON!
Please don’t ever say this to someone. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t comfort. It only pisses ’em off.
2. “God has everything under control.”
You may or may not believe in God. I do; so when people said this to me, I wanted to look at them and say,
“Really? How is THIS under control? Come to my house at night and tell me if it sounds like everything is under control!”
3. “_________ is in a much better place.”
Are you God? Do you stand at judgement with the Book of Life and know where our souls are going? What if I don’t even believe in heaven? How does that comfort my aching soul?
What if ___________ didn’t even believe in Jesus Christ? You don’t know the destination of ANYONE’S soul.
Just avoid this all-together. It may make YOU feel better to think that __________ is in heaven, but it may not do anything for the grieving person. So keep it to yourself.
4. I know what you are going through.
Really? NO YOU DON’T. Who do you know that took their own life? What’s that you say? Your grandma died a year ago? Ummm, she lived a full life…you cannot compare that.
Truth is, even if you have been there, don’t say this. You, truly, don’t know what someone is going through; only they do. Saying this can evoke many angry emotions to the grieving person.
5. You’re a strong person. I know you will get through this.
I don’t want to be strong. I am NOT strong.
Don’t pressure someone to live up to this. In the despair and grief of losing someone so dear, you don’t want to be strong. You want to cry, weep, scream, and do all the things that people classify as weak. Let them do this. Let them grieve in whatever way they need to. Don’t pressure them to be anything that they don’t want to be.
6. It’s been a year. You really need to move on.
Don’t you think we know life has to move on? That’s THE MAIN thing we are grieving about. Life is moving on without my sister. She is stuck at 27 years old for the rest of MY life. I’ll never raise my kids with her kids. I’ll never grow old with her and see how her face wrinkles. We know this!
Just don’t say that. It hurts enough already knowing life is moving on without ________.
7. God is going to be glorified in all this.
How about if I slap you upside the head? Is God glorified in that too?
Usually when people say this they are referring to the death of the person. They say that ______ death is going to touch many people in the same circumstance.
Couldn’t their LIFE do the same thing? Couldn’t them being ALIVE touch many people? Please refrain from saying this, even if you really do believe it.
All these things evoke a response of anger, confusion, questions for the grieving person. Take it from me, it doesn’t absolutely no good to say any of these 7 things to someone who lost a friend or loved one.
There are much better things to say. Let me help you out:
1. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say.
2. Words fall short but I’m here.
3. ________’s life was beautiful.
4. My deepest thoughts and prayers are with you.
5. I brought you a hot meal.
6. I’m here for you. Call me ANYTIME.
7. I’m here for you. Even if it’s to just sit next to you at your house so you’re not alone.
8. Tell me about ________’s life.
9. How are you doing? No, REALLY, how are you doing?
10. I brought you some groceries.
The grieving person is still a person. They don’t have cooties or a scarlet letter. They are you…they are me…they are one of us. They don’t want you to avoid talking about it. They don’t want you to think it’s a sore subject.
When someone would ask me, “How are you?…no really, how are you?” I knew they really cared. And sometimes it opened up a can of worms depending on how my emotions were on that day. Sometimes, I talked about Dinah. I shared stories from our past. I relived moments we shared together in time.
Moments like these bring healing.