What Not to Say

By: Kate Nypaver
Thursday, August 1, 2019

Grief can be awkward. Most of us aren’t around grieving people often, so when we try to comfort someone who is suffering a loss, it can be hard to know what to say. In fact, it’s pretty easy to say the wrong thing.

Here are a few comments to avoid:

1. She’s in a better place now. Is she really? The person you’re consoling most likely believes the best place for their loved one is right beside them. Plus, you might not know how the bereaved feels about an afterlife, so it’s best to not even go there.

2. Call me if you need anything. Someone encumbered with grief probably doesn’t have the energy to ask for help or even know when they need it. Suggesting that they reach out to you is asking a lot of them. Instead, offer to help them with something specific, like, “Is it okay if I get you some groceries for next week?”

3. You should try to keep busy. Staying preoccupied can be helpful to some but not for everyone. Soliciting advice to someone who is grieving is not always helpful. Odds are, they’ve probably been inundated with advice and could use some words of comfort and sympathy instead.

4. I know how you feel. Even if you’ve experienced a loss before, grief is very unique to the person suffering. Their grief will not feel the same as yours, and you can’t possibly know exactly how they feel. Instead, ask them how they’re feeling. Just know that if you do ask them, it might prompt them to respond with exactly how they’re feeling, and their answer may leave you a little speechless. That’s when your go-to response can always be, “I’m here for you.”


If you know the person well, it’s safer to say things like, “I’m here for you” and “You are loved and I care about you.” But if you don’t know the person that well, it’s best to say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” That allows you to express your sympathies without stepping over any boundaries.

Knowing what not to say can also help you avoid an awkward situation. Just try to be courteous, empathetic, and understanding. Sometimes a little goes a very long way.

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