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Grieving: Things Not to Say

When someone we know is grieving, we want to comfort them in some way. Many times, we choose to offer support verbally. When doing so, please remember these natural instincts that roll off the tongues of us all listed below – that are actually very damaging. These are things not to say:

*It’ll be okay.  — You do not know the outcome nor can you predict the future, so don’t use this common lie as a comforting measure.

*God needed them more than you. – Seriously? This is not appropriate in any case.

*If there’s anything I can do…you just let me know. – This is so generic, insincere, and can actually lead to anger & ill feelings toward you. Never ever say this unless you are seriously willing to help the mourning person for the rest of your life! If you say this, be ready to say YES if you’re asked for transportation, monetary help, emotional support, letter writing, employment referrals, catalog orders, holiday gatherings, babysitting, random unexpected visits at your home, legal support, etc. If you make this forever promise, you are the lowest form of existence if you say NO when someone mourning calls on you for assistance for the rest of their lives. This is the most common thing that people will say when they attend a funeral service and 98% of the time, they do not mean it in the least.  No matter how much restraint it takes on your part, absolutely do not say this if children are present! I was fortunate enough not to need anyone’s help and I did not call on anyone for several months for anything after losing my husband. But all the random people who made this comment to my children made life difficult. In a child’s mind, they thought that all those random people really would come to their aid for ANYTHING ANYTIME and they developed a sense of abandonment afterwards. If nothing else from this post sticks in your mind, remember this one!  (My children may not be typical. They knew from experience that when I made this comment, I made a commitment that I upheld the rest of that person’s life. They learned from my example and did not understand the concept that other people only said this because they couldn’t think of anything else to say.)

*Another angle got their wings back. – When someone says this it sounds as though they do not have a loving & studied relationship with my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. It just sounds … weird.

*Time heals all wounds. – Even if this is true (which it is), this is not right to say to someone within the first year of mourning or grieving.

*He was a good man – Unless you knew this to be true, do not say this.

*She was a good woman – Unless you knew this to be true, do not say this.

*I am sorry for your loss. – Why? Unless you killed them or made them sick, why are YOU sorry? Although, I will say that this statement is received better than the previous “If there’s every anything I can do, you let me know”.

*God doesn’t give you more than you can bear. – Although this is true, it is not comforting to hear when mourning.

*Well…at least you’re young. – Yeah, that helps no one… ever 😦 How is that comforting to someone who is already upset about living a long life without their loved one they just lost?

*I know how you feel – Avoid this one at all cost unless you too have lost a relation in the exact same way. No, just don’t say this at all.

*Try not to cry. He/she wouldn’t want you to. – Excuse my lingo, but that is plain ol’ bull poop. Do you hope that no one mourns you when you pass away? Of course not, we all hope that we are loved enough that we are missed when we pass away. So, why would you say that to anyone?

* Okay, enough time has passed to put this behind you and move on. – I’ve heard that said to my children many times and it honestly infuriated me. It caused more hurt than help.

*It’s time to grow up now and stop crying. – This too has been said to my children and it caused far more harm than anything else. They were just kids!! Kids cry no matter their sex and it was OKAY.

*Something great will come from this. – Only say this if you can take a right hook to the jaw without blinking or budging from your spot. You’ve been warned.

*Don’t cry. It’ll upset the kids/parents/siblings/others. – Again, this causes more harm than good as it places unfounded guilt on the survivor for mourning. Everyone mourns in their own way. Words are powerful during grieving, chose your wisely.

So with all of this, what do you say? Keep it simple and sincere. The less you say, the better you are. Here is a list of very proper things to comfort someone mourning or grieving:

  • I love you (This is the absolute best thing you can ever say. Love heals!)
  • Call me if you need to talk. (Be careful though, don’t say this unless you are ready for the phone calls.)
  • I’ll pray for you.
  • I’m praying for you and your family.
  • God hasn’t left you. (This one can be tricky. If you say this, be ready for mixed emotions unless you know the person’s personal faith.)
  • It’s okay to cry.
  • It’s okay to scream.
  • It’s okay to be angry.
  • It’s okay to write your thoughts.
  • He/she knew you loved them.
  • Are you okay? (Since this is a question, be ready for no response or a lengthy period in which you just sit silently and listen without judging them.
  • Nothing/Silence (Sometimes the only thing a person needs is physical comfort – such as: a hug, holding a hand, sitting near them, or standing near them.)

Something people often forget to do:

  • Follow up – Many people will go on with their lives and forget about the mourning/grieving person after a week or two. If your memory is bad, make a reminder for yourself to check in on them a couple of months after the event. This will mean much more than flowers at a funeral, empty comments at a graveside, or cards in the mail immediately following. All you have to do is not forget them in the first year. Simple 🙂

Footprints in Life

Which way will we turn next in our Footprints in Life? What direction do we want to take? What’s around the corner? Should we worry about things that we have no control over? Should we spend precious time trying to figure life out? Why do we spin our heels worrying about how our kids will turn out? Why do we become consumed with ideas or thoughts?

In the long run, it doesn’t matter which way we are about to turn or what’s around the corner. Our Footprints in Life are measured not by our own eyes.
There is no need to worry over things which we have no control.
If we spend precious time trying to figure life out, we miss the here and now.
We can’t worry how our children will turn out. We must simply put our best effort in to leading by example, not just leading by words. Our examples will been seen in our Footprints in Life.
We must not allow ourselves to become obsessed by any one thought or idea. Lest we find ourselves stuck in an alternate reality, ever missing the present.

Be still. See with new eyes.
Quiet. Hear with new ears. Observe. Take in every moment that God the Father gives us and cherish the amazing favor he has granted us each day.

We have no promise of tomorrow.
We have no bargining power over life.
When a door closes, a window opens.
The cup is half full, not half empty.

We are resilient creatures, fully capable of healing, regenerating, and restoring  mentally and physically. 

We leave our personal footprints on thousands of hearts over a lifetime.  Our Footprints in Life can be harsh, rigid, rough, hurtful, disappointing, sorrowful, or degrading, …uplifting, happy, loving, compassionate, empathetic, determined, honest, integral, ethical, graceful, or empowering. 

Consider: The man that lives alone in the neighborhood. His yard is high & unkempt. Maybe his trash piles up before he hauls it off. The finer folks decided long ago he’s an eye sore and can’t wait until the day that the bank forecloses on his home. He goes to work at the same time on the same days each week. He parks his car/truck in the same place. He does not waive to passerbys & all the neighborhood youth have a naughty nickname for him to match the stories they’ve created to scare the younger kids. Why not smile, wave, and offer to help him? No one is exalted above him. 

Consider: The lady that changes your trash can at work – Do you smile and thank her for removing your waste?  Would you treat her differently if she was serving you a hamburger? Her job function is no more important than yours. She is a person and deserves the same friendly smile and gratitude for a job well done as we all do. You make Footprints in Life the same was she does each day.

Consider: What about that socially akward and silent family member or coworker that we all know? They are eager to fade into the background, stay to themselves, & never be noticed or make any ripples. Do they deserve any less attention than the loud, out going, extremist that we all know?

Everyone has a great deal to offer & has a role to play in life. Many of us play multiple roles at once. Some of us find a role we are comfortable with and remain within those confines. Regardless, we are all important and worthy of compassion, generosity, empathy, and kindness.

If one person falls out of your daily loop, your entire life will change. What if the man living alone moves out of the neighborhood? The entire neighborhood changes. Whether the opinion be that the change is for better or worse is irrelevant.  Change will occur nonetheless.

What if the lady changing your trash at work seeks employment elsewhere? The next person will make a different footprint in your life.

What happens when the socially awkward family member or coworker dies? Does everyone avoid/boycott the funeral and the grieving process because that person was socially awkward? Are their Footprints in Life wiped clean?

     Have you ever been in public and seen a poorly dressed or assumingly poor put together person? Do you stare in disapproval…or smile, knod your head and understand they may be in a bad place in life?

Every soul, every interaction we have with everyone embeds a footprint. Will your footprint be a positive one or one that breeds negativity?

In my life I’ve been very blessed. My Lord has allowed me to witness many things both good and bad. One day several years ago, I asked him to allow me to witness a few of my footprints. He granted me this prayer.

     Sixteen years ago, I had the privilege to work with physically & mentally delayed children in a preschool program at a public school. We worked with these children one on one. They were NOT just a job. Their development, livelyhood and social interactions were influenced by the work that we did. I prayed to see one of them again. The next day, I saw one of these children, a young man by then, at a local gas station the next day. He was socially functional! My heart filled with joy 🙂 I am not the only reason he became functional, but I heard my footprint as he paid for his gas, counting his money to pay the cashier.  🙂

     Nineteen years ago, I met a guy that was destined to become a best friend. We related to each other well and could talk about anything together. Many nights, we would lay outside, stare at the stars, and contemplate life. He was skeptical, I was hopeful. I spoke to him not too long ago and he told me he still stares at the stars and wonders about the possibilities out there 🙂

     Ten years ago, I met a young woman raising 2 very young boys.
She was single & happy with her life. They lived modestly and were a well defined family. Our children played together everyday when I got home from work. Things got bad for her when she followed a crowd that dabbled in drugs, taking the edge off of life. She quickly became addicted, forgot about her children, and lost her way. Her children knew I was just across the street if they needed me. Many nights they would wake up alone & run across the road to my house. I bandaged boo boos, packed lunches, provided clothing, food, transportation, and comfort until their mommy came home day after day. Five short years after I first met her, she called me to tell me she was straight, clean, sober and pregnant. She thanked me for never judging her or giving up on her. She died in a freak accident the next day…ran over while crossing the road on a foggy morning-by a street sweeping truck! At the funeral, the boys came & loved on me. I saw my footprint on them.   🙂

Not every footprint is a good one. In fact, we are usually well aware when we are making the bad footprints in life. But, if we strive to make at least one good footprint everyday, they sure add up overtime 🙂

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