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Grief is a deeply personal and often isolating experience.

When you’re grieving, well-meaning friends and family can unintentionally say things that cause more pain. I read Charlotte Hilton Andersen’s insightful article, “12 Polite Ways You’re Talking About Grief That Are Actually Hurtful,” highlights twelve common phrases that, while intended to be comforting, can be hurtful to someone who’s grieving.

If you’re grieving and want to help your friends understand what to say (and what not to say), this is for you.

I’ve also added my own tips to help you educate your friends and family. Read them and rewrite them in your own words or simply print out this blog post and Charlotte Hilton Andersen’s article to give to your friends and family.

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Here’s What You Can Do: How to Support a Friend through Grief

You can also use some of these helpful tips to help your friends understand that you’d like them to help you while grieving.

  1. “They’re in a better place.” While this phrase is meant to provide comfort, it can invalidate the intense pain you’re feeling. It suggests that your feelings are less important because your loved one is “better off without you.” Just imagine hearing this if you were a mother whose child had died. Is there a better place than a mother’s arms?

Acknowledge their pain by saying:“Your [loved one] was such a wonderful person. I’m grateful to have known them.” “I know there are no words that can ease your pain, but I’m here for you.” Dr. Rabin, a noted psychiatrist, says, “Tell me about him/her.”

  1. “At least they lived a long life.” This statement can minimise your grief by implying that the length of life should minimise the pain of loss.

What to say: Simply say, “Their loss must be incredibly difficult for you.”

  1. “Everything happens for a reason.” This can feel dismissive and make you feel as if you shouldn’t be upset about your loved one. Remember, grief is love.

Try this instead: Offer a listening ear with, “I’m here to listen if you want to talk about how you’re feeling.”

  1. “I know how you feel.” Even if someone has experienced a similar loss, grief is unique to each person, and this phrase can come off as dismissive.

Share their empathy without assuming they fully understand by saying:”I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but I care about you and want to be with you.”

  1. “They wouldn’t want you to be sad.” This implies that your grief is somehow inappropriate or disrespectful to your loved one.

 Validate your feelings by saying: “It’s okay to feel sad and to miss them.”

More examples:

  1. “God needed another angel.” This can be painful for those whose religious beliefs differ or those who find it unhelpful in the context of their grief.

Stick to more universally comforting words like:”I’m thinking of you during this difficult time.”

  1. “Time heals all wounds.” While time can help, this phrase can make you feel pressured to “get over” your grief. You actually need to get through grief and learn to live alongside it.

 Offer ongoing support:by sitting with the grieving person. This is often more powerful than any words you can say.

  1. “Be strong.” Grieving people often feel pressure to appear strong, which can suppress their natural emotions.

Encourage them to express their feelings with: “It’s okay to cry and let your emotions out.”

  1. “You have to stay busy.” This advice can push you to avoid your emotions rather than process them.

Offer your presence with: “Can we have a coffee together (give a date and time) and talk about how you’re feeling or just sit and have coffee?”

  1. “They’re always with you in spirit.” While meant to be comforting, this can sometimes feel abstract and unhelpful in the face of tangible loss.

Acknowledge the loss directly by saying: “I know you miss them terribly.”

  1. “You should be over this by now.” Grief has no timeline, and suggesting there’s a “correct” duration can be very hurtful. I hear this phrase more often than I’d like. It makes the person feel like they can’t talk about their grief and how lonely they are.

 Respect their journey with: “Grieve in your own way and time. I’m here for you.”

  1. “It could be worse.” Comparing losses can invalidate your grief and make you feel guilty for your feelings.

 Show understanding and compassion with:“Your pain is valid, and it’s okay to feel how you feel.”

Let’s Educate Your Friends 

Guide friends on supporting you. Share this list to encourage listening, presence, and validation during your grief journey.

Remember, it’s okay to set boundaries and take care of your emotional needs. Surround yourself with those who are willing to learn and grow in their ability to support you. Your feelings are important, and your grief deserves to be honoured with compassion and understanding.

If you found this blog insightful and would like to read more of my blog posts, simply click here.

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