9 Things You Should Never Say to a Grieving Person
Even your most well-intentioned words can definitely hurt.
When someone dies, the first steps are usually pretty clear: you fill the family's refrigerator with meals, go to the funeral or attend a viewing, send bereavement cards, or sit Shiva. But after the initial period, the process tends to go off-script. We don’t want to remind a person of a loss, and the fact that he or she is grieving, says Rebecca Soffer, co-founder and CEO of Modern Loss, an online community offering resources and conversations about loss and grief. So, in response, we tiptoe around directly addressing it, try to skip over it completely, or don’t say anything at all. Though almost universally well intentioned, we might say things that are hurtful or unhelpful because we’re focused on helping ourselves get through the uncomfortable moment rather than really being there for the grieving person.
So we asked Soffer and Jenni Brennan, professor at The National Center for Death Education at Mount Ida College in Newton, Mass., to offer their tips on what to not say to someone who’s grieving.