Chelsea Hanson: What Not to Say

Written by Chelsea Hanson on September 8, 2011

Here is Part II of Sympathy Support: What Not To Say, by our new guest columnist, Chelsea Hanson.

In Part I, Chelsea outlined words of comfort that are appropriate. Here are their inappropriate counterparts. 

In addition to knowing what to say to those who are grieving, it is very important to know what not to say.

Friends sometimes say things that are well-meaning, but not appropriate or helpful.

To avoid making the same mistake, here are some points to remember and things NOT to say at time of loss.

1. Don’t assume that the loss is for the best or in any way a blessing.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“He is in a better place.”

“It was God’s will.”

2. Don’t assume that the pain is any less because the person who died was older or very sick.

“He lived a long, full life.”

“At least she is not in pain anymore.”

“Be thankful you had him for so long.”

3. Don’t assume that because there are no children, that the pain is any less.

“At least they didn’t have any children.”

4. Avoid comparisons. Everyone’s grief is unique.

“I know how you feel.”

“I understand how hard your loss must be for you and your children.

“Let me tell you how my friend handled a rough time.”

5. Watch what you say. There is no replacement for the person who died.

“You are young, you can re-marry.”

“Be glad you have two other healthy children.”

“You can still have another child.”

6. Avoid clichés. Such answers do not acknowledge the loss or feelings of the bereaved.

“Time heals everything.”

“Be strong.”

“Keep your chin up.”

“You will never be given more than you can handle.”

7. Avoid statements that begin with “At least….”

“At least you can travel now that you aren’t caring for him anymore.”

“At least he didn’t suffer.”

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