UPJOURNEY: What to Say and What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving

Here is my contribution to this article, published on UPJOURNEY

When someone close to you is experiencing grief, it is natural to want to jump in and fix it for them. Watching someone suffer naturally brings up discomfort in ourselves.

You just want to make it better for them, make the suffering go away. You might avoid talking about the subject of their grief, for fear of not knowing what to say.

You might be compelled to tell them something like, “You have an angel in heaven, now,” or “You need to move on. Try and stay busy.”

But, look at this avoidance and these statements carefully and you can see the real message behind them; a well-intentioned response can say to a grieving person, “You shouldn’t be feeling this way.”

Don’t try to fix their pain

It is a hard reality for all of us to accept that there are things in this world that are terribly painful, things that happen to us and our loved ones that we can’t control and cause so much anguish. And, this is the truth; inherent in life is the fact that we will all experience tragedy.

With the loss, we experience grief. This is just the way it is- sadness is a natural response to losing something that we care about or that gave us a sense of safety. So, when talking to someone who is grieving, don’t try to fix their pain. It won’t work, and it will make them feel even more alone.

Their grief just needs to live in them for a while, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for them and for you. Many experts agree that trying to push grief away is actually a cause of depression; fully experiencing grief is the only way for it to pass and make meaning of the loss.

Be with them

Your task is not to make a grieving person feel better, but less isolated in their experience. This person may feel that they are in a sinking boat. Get in the boat, sink with them.

Try saying something like, “It’s ok not to be ok,” “You can cry with me- I am here,” “Tell me about them. I want to hear everything,” or, “Sometimes with grief, there are no words. I can just sit here beside you.”

Responses like these acknowledge that grief is a natural human emotion, convey that you accept this person’s experience the way it is, and show them that you are present when they need you. This is what a grieving person needs to hear.

Of course, responding in this way takes a lot of courage on your part. You have to learn to sit in another’s grief and with your own uncertainty. You have to move from the illusion that you can provide a solution to the truth that you can’t do a thing to stop the grief.

This is an incredibly challenging job, and yet the only way to truly help. When another’s heart is broken, let them have yours. It’s the hardest thing to do, and all you need to do.

To access the full article, click here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s