As someone who has lost loved ones, I have had some not so good experiences with people that wanted to encourage and support me and I thought to share what not to say to a grieving friend to shed light on this subject. A lot of people do not know this perhaps because they have never been in such situations. I think it is very important to know what not to say as it make the person feel worse.
1. “SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS”
Although this is the correct thing to say given that your friend has actually lost someone, I think it is unsympathetic. This might come as a shock to some people because it is very commonly used and seems ideal but really you need to be as sensitive as possible when you speak to a grieving person. I don’t think the word ‘loss’ is sensitive at all. Endearing words that does not trigger what has happened or make the person feel disadvantaged is exactly what your friend needs at this difficult time of their life. You do not want to remind the person that a loss has occurred but to send love and light their way to encourage them.
2. “I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL”
No you don’t. This is not a competition of who has lost more people or who has been in a less favourable position. This statement belittles the person’s feelings as if to say, ‘it has happened to me so it is not the end of the world’. Do not talk about your losses or what you have been through because it will only come off as a comparison to what your friend is going through. The truth of the matter is, no matter how similar a person’s loss is to yours it can never be the same, it can never feel the same, so do not trivialise it.
The fact is this does not do much for a grieving person. It is not a wrong thing to say but it is just not comforting at all. Sending or saying encouraging words or prayers are much better and would be much more appreciated.
4. “HOW ARE YOU?”
I am sure you want to know how your friend is coping and if they are ok which is very kind and thoughtful of you. On the other hand, and from your friend’s perspective, the unfortunate event has completely rocked his/her world and emotions and feelings are all over the place, so what exact feeling does the person tell you and how do they express it? It can be hard to respond to this, very hard for some. So just give it some time before you ask.
5. “WHAT HAPPENED?”
Please do not ask this. Some people will just say what happened without sympathising first – horrible. It is like opening a fresh wound. Your friend would not only have to relive and recall such a painful event but to have to say it out loud or text it which is harder. Why would you want to put your friend through that? Give your friend some time to develop strength and then you can ask this. Or just simply ask someone else.
In General, the key word is to be sensitive and compassionate. Don’t just use words because they are commonly used. Think about what you are saying and make sure it is something that will uplift and encourage the person.
Thank you for reading. Please share to your friends and family so it can help someone xx