Someone close to you has just lost a loved one. What should you say? Or rather…what shouldn’t you say.
I know these 5 things were well-intended, but while in the thick of grief, they ended up having a rather negative effect on me. Here are the worst 5 things said to my while grieving the loss of my husband:
1. “He’s in a better place now.”
Well…no, the best place would be right here beside me. We were having an amazing life and while I’m not exactly sure what to expect in the afterlife (although I do have thoughts on the subject) I do know Joe would have rather waited another fifty years before settling into this “better place.”
2. “You’re doing great!”
While my facade may have occasionally emitted a positive glow and cool demeanor, underneath the surface my personal assessment was far from great. Some days, I would politely agree to avoid engaging in yet another depressing conversation on how much my life sucked. Other days, I would try to gently correct their false assumptions saying, “Well, actually, I’m not. I’m having a really hard time right now.” Although their words were meant to be a positive acknowledgement of my accomplishments, on the days I felt shattered, it really didn’t help being complimented. I would rather have been asked how I was feeling instead of being told how I was doing.
3. “It was his time to go.”
No, it wasn’t! He had so much more he wanted to do. So many talents and ideas still to share with the world. Saying it was “his time” seemed terribly unfair. If anything, his time here was cut incredibly short.
4. “Are you dating?”
“Are you kidding?” This was said surprisingly too often and too soon for me. I started being asked this question at a time where I had only just begun to process the depths of my loss. While there is no right or wrong timeline to start dating after a loved one dies, the thought of dating was nowhere near on my radar. It would take me a couple of years before I was ready to open up my heart to love again. Some people are ready much sooner (which is wonderful!), but at the time I was asked, I had other things on my mind…like remembering to eat, not forgetting to pick up my kids at the right time and from the right place and confirming I had remembered to put on pants before leaving the house.
5. They Said Nothing — and instead, disappeared.
I’ll admit, before experiencing loss I was often the one who disappeared. Incredibly torn as to what to say or do, or fearing I would say the wrong thing, I would wait for things to settle before finding my way back. Upset at first when a close friend or even a family member disappeared, I soon realized that many did so out of fear and not for lack of caring. The issue of timing also comes into play. A friend recently asked me “If I didn’t reach out in the beginning and haven’t called for months or even a year, would it be awkward to just show up?” Not necessarily so. I joyously welcome being contacted with no need for apology. I understand now that we can only handle what we can handle and that everyone varies on how much and when they can process their grief or that of a loved one.
These 5 won’t have the same effect on everyone. In fact, whereas I was cringing they might bring comfort to someone else. Knowing your recipient, speaking from the heart and being mindful to where someone is on their personal journey are the best guidance counselors for knowing what to say. You can also check out my post on “The 5 Best Things Said to Me While Grieving” to learn which compassionate phrases I appreciated most.
What well-intended but misguided expressions said while grieving had you reeling in a negative way?