If you want to start a lively discussion sometime, just ask a roomful of grievers whether anyone has made an insensitive remark to them since their loved ones died. I guarantee you the recollections will be vivid, free-flowing and still hurtful no matter how much time has passed.
We all encounter grieving people and of course, we want to offer our sympathy. (If you haven’t ever experienced a deep grief, I especially recommend listening to the song at the blog’s end, “I Will Not Say Goodbye” written by contemporary Christian artist Danny Gokey after the death of his 27-year-old wife.)
Here’s my list of SIX THINGS NEVER TO SAY TO GRIEVERS:
- God must have needed him/her more than you do.
God is self-sufficient and needs nothing. He is not made greater, stronger or better by anyone or anything. Yes, He loves our loved ones even more than we do, but He does not take them Home out of His own necessity.
2. At least you have other children.
I remember when I miscarried our first baby at three months gestation on Mother’s Day of all days. That night a nurse came by my hospital room and told me: “You’re young—you’ll have other children.”
Her words did not comfort me. I didn’t want a “replacement” baby—I wanted that child I already loved. I needed to grieve the baby I would hold only in my heart and never in my arms.
And as devastating as a miscarriage can be, the death of a child is even more so. A parent burying a son or daughter is so unnatural, I believe this is the deepest grief to bear. And having other children still alive does not diminish the loss. The less said by onlookers, the better.
3. At least he lived a long life.
If this thought gives you comfort when your loved one passes, by all means say it to yourself, but it’s not a phrase that others should use with grievers. Simply because someone was 80, 90 or even 100 doesn’t mean it feels OK that he/she is no longer in this world. In fact, when a loved one has been in our life for a long time, it can feel really difficult not to see/call/take care of them each day.
My Mom passed away at the age of 82 after many health struggles and I mistakenly thought that because she had been in my life for a whole 60 years, I wouldn’t grieve as much. It has been four years and I honestly still could cry everyday—and many days I do.
4. You’re young—you’ll find someone else.
Even if this is true, such a statement minimizes the special love relationship two people had. Those burying a spouse/partner/fiancé do not need to run out and find a new mate. They may indeed find love again, but first need to grieve what they had and lost.
5. I know just how you feel.
I remember when someone said this to me shortly after my 86-year-old father passed away. I wanted to reply: “Really…your Dad died a few hours before your Mom got home from the hospital after being there two weeks for cancer surgery complications? So the day that was supposed to be your parents’ happy reunion became the date your brother had to drive three hours and break the news to your Mom? And meanwhile you were hurriedly driving seven hours in a vain attempt to say goodbye to your Dad? Really…you had all that happen to you, too? Every grief has it’s own uniqueness, including how it affects those left behind. So while you may have an inkling, you do not know exactly how someone feels.
6. I thought you’d be over this by now.
People do not get over grief. They get through it. There is no universal timetable for grieving and grief work is not a linear progression. “Getting over it” is what we do when a boyfriend breaks up with us or we lose a job or someone hurts our feelings. The idea of “getting over” our grief implies that we’re never going to miss that person or be sad again. It’s simply not true because when we love deeply, we grieve deeply.
Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.
Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
If the music video below doesn’t appear, please open in your browser or use this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcrUKDx3m6g