What to Say to Grievers

The following are suggestions summarized from experts for your convenience. Please always use your judgment based on how you know individual grievers. 

Avoid General Comments

  •  Statements about how things are fine or will be better because they may be hurtful and provoke someone to shutdown their feelings. Let grievers express any sayings that may be meaningful to them.
  • “There is (a greater plan, purpose, reason).”
  • “They are (at peace, not suffering, in a better place).”
  • “They (are with deceased loved ones, had a good/long life, fulfilled their purpose, should have…)”
  • “Be/you are (brave, busy, forgiving, grateful, strong, there for others, trusting)”
  • “You should (get over, give it time, go on, move on, replace)…”
  • “You still have (other loved ones, a good life).”
  • When something is said that bothers a griever, most know when it was meant in a loving way and benefit from realizing the importance of forgiveness.

Encourage Expression and Listen

  • Provide a comfortable space for them to cry and fall apart.
  • A sincere facial expression and hug speak volumes. You can’t imagine/know how they feel. Just be with them.
  • “(Can we, would you like to) talk about this more?”
  • “Describe what you (saw, heard, thought, felt).”
  • “Get those thoughts and feelings out!”
  • “How did you (react, respond)?”
  • “Please (expand on, help me understand, tell me about) that/them.”
  • “What are you (feeling, going through, struggling with)?”
  • “What did you do? What else did you do?”
  • “What do you (believe, mean, think) then/now?”
  • “What happened? Then what? What/Why do you think…?”
  • “What is/was it like for you? What is the hardest part for you?”
  • “What was your relationship like? What were they like?”
  • “What would your loved one want for you or say to you?”

Recognize the Good

  • Contribute even a small amount to their chosen charity or memorial.
  • Let them know their loved ones will never be forgotten.
  • Say the name of deceased loved ones.
  • Speak of them often, sharing good memories and descriptions of their loved ones.
  • Tell them how you will keep the memory of their loved one alive.
  • Tell them you will never forget their loved ones.
  • “I will always remember and admire (their generosity, kindness, sense of humor, strength, thoughtfulness) (how everyone loves them, hard they worked, nice it was to be around them)”
  • “What a great love between you both.”

Acknowledge Feelings

  • “Do you think your pain reflects how immensely you love them?”
  • “I am so sorry that happened.” Some feel this has been used too often to be thoughtful and/or get tired of hearing it. Others feel offended if it is not said. Some do not like “sorry for your loss” because they do not feel they are lost as they are just not physically here.
  • “I can see how (hard, hurtful, painful) this is for you.”
  • “I can see how much you are suffering.”
  • “I can tell you are in so much pain and I am here to support you.”
  • “I will be checking on you.”
  • “It sounds like you are really feeling (describe).”
  • “That is (awful, difficult, frustrating, heartbreaking, hurtful, messed-up, painful, terrible).”
  • Experts recommend saying you can’t imagine/understand how a griever feels but this also can make a griever fearful and they may find it more difficult to have hope for their future.”
  • “This must (be, have been) very (challenging, difficult, hard, heartbreaking, painful).”
  • “What you are saying makes so much sense.”

Explain Thought and Emotion

  • Thought creates emotion and their thoughts get programmed. Program the love.
  • “Unconstructive thoughts will go away when not used. We control our thoughts. Allowing continued unconstructive thoughts strengthens how often we will have them.”
  • “Focusing on best memories and all you love in your life may greatly support healing. Love is eternal.”
  • Talk about forgiveness and self-forgiveness when appropriate.

Encouragement and Hope

  • Acknowledge (pictures, memories, tributes).
    Ask how to be supportive and offer support. “Is there anything you prefer I do or say.”
  • Encourage them to gain knowledge where uncertain or fearful.
  • “Self-love and self-care are so important.”
  • “It is alright to allow joy when grieving.”
  • “Loving connections are more healing than isolation.”
  • Offer (caring, condolences, love, positive energy, thoughts, prayers, resources, support, sympathy) and wish (comfort, healing, peace, strength, well-being).
  • Recognize what they are doing well.
  • “There are no words to lessen grief, but there is great hope in knowing it’s natural and when expressed helps us heal.”
  • “Do what works and not just what is generally thought should be done.”
  • “We can get through this together.”