Have you ever struggled with giving condolences? Me, too.
Grief is intimidating to see. Part of it is that we know we’ll feel it one day for someone we love–or we’ve already felt it–and that reminder can be painful. Well-meaning friends and relatives can often trip on themselves when trying to give comfort. We don’t face the concept of death very often, most of us, so it’s no wonder awkward condolences are pretty common.
But no harm is meant. No matter how it comes out of their mouths, it’s meant to comfort. So here are some things you may not want to say to a grieving loved one, and then, I’ll give you a simple, no-fail, comforting sentence.
I know how you feel.
You don’t. I don’t. No one knows how someone else feels, even if they’ve gone through the same thing. Because grief is as individual as people are. Everyone grieves differently, so it’s impossible to know how another feels.
At least she’s in a better place.
That may very well be true, and many do believe it, but the truth is that most of us would far prefer for our loved ones to still be here, with us. Of course, we don’t want them to suffer, but the “better place” concept is best saved for a time when grief is not so raw and only for someone with whom you share a spiritual bond.
It’s God’s will.
Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t–we don’t know because we don’t have a hotline to God. Either way I guarantee you that it’s not something most mourning families want to hear. Very few people are comforted by the idea that God chose to take a loved one prematurely. Or at all.
This, too, will pass.
It won’t. That’s the thing. Losing a loved one drills a hole in our hearts that stays forever. Sure, grief transforms, but it never passes. Sometimes, it cycles. I can go weeks without tearing up and then, as happened this week, I think of her and the tears come. That heart-hole is real. Grief doesn’t pass. Those are realities.
Others have gone through this and survived.
It’s absolutely true. And it is absolutely no comfort. This is an observation best left for mourners to discover, themselves. People mean to be helpful, but it comes across as cold and uncaring.
Time will heal.
Not really. See “This, too, will pass” above.
So, how do we keep from upsetting a grieving loved one?
This is all you have to say:
“I am so sorry for your loss.”
That’s all it takes. I’m sorry. That, and a hug, if appropriate. Then, let them say what they need to. Or if they’re silent, that’s ok, too. You don’t need to fill the silence. Just a touch of the hand, deep eye contact, a comforting look. That’s all.
Later, a sympathy card with a kind note is appropriate. If you knew the person who died, you might share a happy memory: “I remember how Uncle Jack would take us for rides in the summer. He was always so good to us kids.”
And of course,if you’re distant from the loved one and would like to send a gift, I hope you will consider my beautiful and affordable condolence packages.
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