4 Phrases You Should Never Say to Someone Who is Grieving

My mom hasn’t been on the earth plane since 2016, but that doesn’t mean that the words people say to me still don’t sting. I’ve heard these 4 phrases more times than I can count. And although they may come from a place of love, they sure aren’t as comforting as one would think. Here’s why.

“I’m sorry for your loss”

This phrase is one of my biggest pet peeves. No matter who/what was lost, saying “I’m sorry for your loss” puts it back on the person grieving. I feel the automatic “it’s fine” or “it’s not your fault” slipping through my lips and it just makes me even more upset. I shouldn’t have to comfort you or make my grief flippant.

What to say instead: “This really sucks.”

Yes, Susan. Yes, it does. Thanks for commiserating with me.

“Stay strong.”

Ouch. This one first comes off as judge-y but then also leaves the griever feeling like they HAVE to be strong. It’s a loss. No one should expect you to be strong. They should expect that you are going to be down – maybe for a long time. And that’s okay, because it’s your grief and you can handle it how you need to. Be strong or don’t be. But don’t put it on the griever to have to show that to you.

What to say instead: “It’s okay to feel however you need to feel. I’m here with a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen.”

Finally, someone who doesn’t expect anything from me in this time of sorrow.

“They’re in a better place.”

For the love of all things holy, please do not say this to someone grieving. I don’t care how true you think this it, it is not comforting in the slightest to know that you’re loved one is better off anywhere than here with you.

What to say instead: “There is no better place than having your XXX here with you. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I will do my best to make sure feel supported.”

“It’ll get easier”

This can be wildly false when it comes to grieving. It doesn’t get easier. It’s different,  but I’d never say that almost 3 years later it’s easier grieving my mom now vs then. Grief is not linear. I’ve said this many times. One day might be easier by some standards, and the next can take a blow to your gut and knock you smack on your ass. Grief doesn’t let up just because time has passed.

What to say instead: “I know you are swallowed whole right now. Please know that I will be here for you through every stage of grief, no matter how many times you find yourself in each one.”

We know you mean well, but…

I know these phrases are easy to throw at someone grieving, but I hope next time you feel yourself about to say one of them that you take a moment and think of an alternative I’ve suggested. When you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the last thing you need to worry about is how someone might approach you and say something inconsiderate.

Be supportive. Don’t just say something supportive though – BE supportive. Be there for your friend when they need you. I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated my friends and family who have checked in on me, even 2.5 years later. It helps to know not only know that my mom will never be forgotten, but that neither will I.