Things People Say That Are Not Helpful to Those Grieving

I know people think they are helping when they say these things, but they actually are not helpful. I just cringe when I hear them.

"You're still young"
So being young makes it hurt less somehow? When people say that all it feels like is that they're just dismissing my pain. The thing is, knowing that I may find love again doesn't help right now because I chose HIM-I wanted him, not anyone else. It hurts to think about someone else when all I wanted was him. He was supposed to be my forever. Not someone else. Being young doesn't mean it's any less hard to lose the love of your life, your best friend, your whole world.

"He's always watching over you/he's your guardian angel"
This doesn't bring me comfort, because I don't feel this way. I don't know if it's true or not, but I don't want to make up stories to make myself feel better. Also, the bible says we do NOT become angels in Heaven, so no, he is not my guardian angel.

"At least you have the memories"
Yes, and I'm thankful for memories. But memories don't compare to his physical presence. It doesn't make me miss him less. It actually makes me sad that all he is now is a memory and that we will never make new memories.

"He's always with you"
Yes, I know he'll always be "with" me in my heart, but it's NOT the same.  I want to see him and hear him and touch him and hug him and kiss him. That's what I want. What hurts is not having that. What I miss is having him here beside me, physically.

"Matt would want you to smile and be happy." First of all, you don't know what Matt would want. And secondly, he would want me to feel whatever I feel. And just because I'm sad and miss him, doesn't mean I never smile or never feel happy!

"Be thankful"
Okay, well, I am thankful. Every day. But that doesn't cancel out pain and sadness. You can be thankful and still miss someone and still grieve and still hurt. They co-exist.

"Keep your chin up"
This one really bothers me. The problem with our culture is this-people feel like they can't express pain and sadness, so they push it down and suffer in silence and pretend they're fine when they're not. No. It's okay to have pain and to not always be happy, and we should be able to express that. It's okay to not always feel like you have to "keep your chin up".  People need a place to be able to fall apart and let down their guard and not be strong. When you've had your life ripped out from under you, every day that you get up and choose to live and not curl up in a ball requires a ton of strength and effort, and it's exhausting. So being constantly told to keep smiling and to keep your chin up isn't helpful when all you really want sometimes is to be able to fall apart.

So what should you say then? How can you help someone who's grieving? First of all, just let them feel what they feel. Let them have a safe place to express themselves, without jumping in to "fix" it, without trying to cheer them up. They don't want their pain lessened-they simply want to be heard. Expressing pain and sadness is therapeutic and healing-we need that. But if we're constantly being told we shouldn't feel the way we feel, all we will do is suppress it, and that's not healthy in the long run.

I know it seems like, well, if I can't say any of those things, what can I even say? What's the "right" thing to say? Well, just know that we know it's awkward, and we know you're trying and that you mean well.

So what you can do is listen. Let us know you're there if we want to talk. Let us take the lead, and agree with us that yeah, this really sucks. You don't need to be a cheerleader. Suppress that urge to try and "fix" our pain.

Tell us you're proud of us and that we're doing a good job.

Check in on us. Just simply say you're thinking about us, praying for us, and ask how our day went every now and then. And keep checking in, even after the first few months. We still need that at 6 months, a year, and beyond, I'm sure. Even if it seems we are doing "fine", even if it seems like we are carrying on with life- keep checking in.

Ask us out for coffee or lunch/dinner. Even if we turn you down, keep asking. It feels good to know that people still care and sometimes it's just nice to get out and do something with a friend, even if we don't talk about "it".

Do something for us to help lessen our load or brighten our day-and don't ask what we want, just do it. Come over and mow the lawn. Babysit the kids for a night. Send a care package or a gift card or flowers. Grief is exhausting and makes it hard to always get everything done that needs to be done, and I can't imagine how it must be with children in the mix.

Losing someone you love, and especially being widowed, can be a very lonely road. Even when you have a good support system, even when you're surrounded by people, it's lonely. These little things can help you feel less alone and make you feel like people do genuinely care.


  1. If you need someone to talk to I know you have other people but I'm not working so if you want to swap senior pup stories or book reccomendations I'm not working til Saturday.


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