What Not To Say When Someone is Grieving

Sue Bohlin's picture

Last week my dear friend Sandi Glahn wrote another boffo blog post about the myths of infertility, which included some of the dumb things people say.

It may be insensitivity or a lack of education that spurs people to say things that are unhelpful at the least and downright hurtful much of the time. I still remember my own daggers to the heart after our first baby died nine days after her birth. And for the past several years, I have been collecting actual quotes said to those already in pain.

So here's my current list of What Not To Say when someone is hurting:

Don’t start any sentence with “At least. . . .”
• “At least you didn’t have time to really love her.”
• “At least he’s in heaven now.”
• "At least you have two other children."
• "At least that's one less mouth you'll have to feed."
• "At least it didn't have to go through the pain of birth."
• "At least you've had a good life so far, before the cancer diagnosis."

Don’t attempt to minimize the other person’s pain.
• “Cancer isn’t really a problem.” (e.g., Shame on you for thinking that losing your hair/body part/health is a problem.)
• "It's okay, you can have other children."

Don’t try to explain what God is doing behind the scenes.
• “I guess God knew you weren’t ready to be parents yet.”
• "Now you'll find out who your friends are."
• "This baby must have just not been meant to be."
• "There must have been something wrong with the baby."
• "Just look ahead because God is pruning you for great works."
• "Cancer is really a blessing."
• "Cancer is a gift from God because you are so strong."

Don’t blame the other person:
• “If you had more faith, your daughter would be healed.”
• “Remember that time you had a negative thought? That let the cancer in.”
• “You are not praying hard enough.”
• "Maybe God is punishing you. Have you done something sinful?"
• "Oh, you're not going to let this get you down, are you?" (Meaning: just go on without dealing with it.)

Don’t compare what the other person is going through to ANYTHING else or anyone else’s problem:
• "It's not as bad as that time I. . ."
• “My sister-in-law had a double mastectomy and you only lost one breast.”

Don’t use the word “should”:
• "You should be happy/grateful that God is refining you."

Don’t use clichés and platitudes:
• "Look on the bright side."
• “He’s in a better place.”
• “She’s an angel now.” (NO! People and angels are two different created kinds! People do not get turned into angels when they die.)
• “He’s with the Lord.”

Don’t instruct the person:
• “This is sent for your own good, and you need to embrace it to get all the benefit out of it.”
• “Remember that God is in control.”
• “Remember, all things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 is powerful to comfort oneself, but it can feel like being bludgeoned when it comes from anyone else.)

What TO say:
• “I love you.”
• “I am so sorry.” You don’t have to explain. Anything.

What TO do:
• A wordless hug.
• A card that says simply, “I grieve with you.”
• Instead of bringing cakes, drop off or (better) send gift certificates for restaurants or pizza places.

And pray. Then pray some more. It's the most powerful thing we can say or do.

Comments

Sue Bohlin's picture

I just remembered another comment to avoid:

"I know how you feel. My dog died once." ARRRGHHHHHHH!!!!!

You have a good list going. Unfortunately.
Our daughter died this past May. Our situation at the time and the aftermath have taken its toll on our family and ministry. It is a long story.
But the morning after she died, we heard for the first time, unfortunately not for the last time, "You will see later how God is going to use all of this for something good."
All Christian charity goes out the window at that point, at least in your thoughts. But all you can do is smile and say, "Thanks."

Sharifa Stevens's picture

Sue, thank you for putting up some of the don'ts - and dos - so that people flub less and love more effectively.

After a frieng of mine got cancer for the forth time and was dying I thought long and hard about what I could say that was true and not offensive.
I am here for you right now
I have no idea what its like to go through what you are going through
I cannot imagine how you feel
.....and then I LISTEN...its our greatest gift to those who are full of suffering.

The only other thing I know to do in the case of a death of a loved one is to mark down the date of the death and send a nice card the following year saying something like "remembering your loss"
When it is not our grief --we get over it quickly. Not so with the one bereaved

After I had lost my first (of three) pregnancies, a "friend" wrote me a letter and told me satan had stole my baby. That took a long time to work through, but I did.
None of the nurses in the hospital knew how to deal with my grief, (this was 25 years ago) so they stayed away. One day a loving, sweet older woman came in, patted my hand, and just sat with me while I cried. Sometimes, no words are needed.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Barbara, Elspeth, Todd--

Thank you for sharing your experiences. And I am so very, very sorry for your deep pain of excruciating losses.

Sue

Thank you for sharing your experiences
I'm definitely going to bookmark you
blueoo.com
Thanks.

When someone you know has a loved one die, DO NOT pretend like the person never lived. Ask about them and let the griever talk and cry.
My son died in Feb 08 and while at a family reunion, no one said his name, they were afraid to make me cry. I later had a button made that says;
When you mention my child, I may cry. If you don't mention his name, it will break my heart.
Crying is part of healing. My son is part of me and deserves tears. Please don't spare me by killing him again.

We received a call when my husband died in a violent accident while at an event with our grandchildren. The grandchildren also witnessed (and were traumatized by) the accident. I was in terror not knowing if and what he suffered. I went into in horrible shock at hearing the news. I can't even begin to describe it.
We waited during the next 2 hours to find out from the coroner where and when and, depending on the trauma to the body, if I could go to see him. People started showing up at the house within the next hour or two. I couldn't talk or absorb what happened. Someone pulled me aside and started talking in an instructing tone, telling me a lot of specific details about the accident even though THEY WERE NOT THERE.
They also said, "Remember, you have your family." and
"He was having a wonderful time." and, "He died doing what he loved."
Don't say that to anyone!
My adult daughters started notifying our relatives and friends as well as ttheir friends.. A person chided my 40 year old daughter for making a call to a close friend, saying she shouldn't be on the on the line because, "Your mother needs you."
Another daughter took a call from the people who contacted us about organ donation. A person took the phone right out of her hand in mid sentence and started taking over the call.
There's a difference between helping and trying to be known as "the one that helps."

Thank you for sharing this story. I'm so sorry for your loss and for this experience.

Thank you so much for responding to my note. I've been keeping this experience mostly to myself as I realize people don't know what to say and probably mean well. Being able to write it down and tell someone else, albeit online, helped me to begin to let it go. It also reminded me not to overthink what I say to those who are grieving. Saying you're sorry and listening with an open heart will help more than all the platitudes and advice one can muster.

I agree with you! I can almost feel your anguish. To have someone be so pompous and clueless must have made a horrible situation even more painful for you and your family. God bless you and your family as you heal.

I understand you accept input from the menfolk so hope it's ok to join your conversation. My post has probably missed the boat and may not ever be read by anyone. But just in case here's a comment that, while not outright hurtful, my wife and I found rankled a bit after it sunk in. And, as we racked our brains hoping we hadn't said it to anyone in the past, resolved to leave it out of our vocabulary for good.

"If you need anything, let me know."

That phrase lets the speaker feel like they're helping while absolving them of actually getting creative and just doing something - anything - that might put a smile on their grieving friend's face. And I don't doubt that any of the folks who said this to us were sincere. I think they might have been surprised if I'd said, "You know, a 16 oz. Mega Mango from Jamba Juice would really take the edge off of my reality right about now". But I think they would have come through.

How much more it would have meant when someone just stopped by on their own initiative with a chocolate shake from McDonald's and said, "Here. I thought this might." Honestly, I'd enjoy the Jamba Juice more but that person would be my best friend for life for just jumping in and doing something. Without running it by me first OR putting the onus on me to articulate what I needed or identify what would make me happy right at the moment. As some of you know, some days just putting one foot in front of the other is all we can do and grief can dull our senses to the necessities and pleasures of life.

So, while not delivering nearly the sucker punch that some of the "At leasts" and "shoulds" and platitudes can, the "Let-me-knows" are off limits to us now as well. We just grab the shake or smoothie and show up. If it ends up in the trash after we're gone, at least we will have tried.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Mark, beloved brother in sorrow,

Thank you SO MUCH for this! Since we are still teaching through Job at Watermark, just this evening the small group women's leaders were talking about what ELSE not to say and do, and the emptiness of "Let me know if there's anything I can do" came up. You are so very right about it substituting for real help, which looks more like a phone call saying, "I'm on my way over to clean your bathrooms, so get dressed," or that yummy-sounding Jamba Juice.

I smiled at thinking about what happens even if the hurting person trashes the gift. They don't have to drink the beverage to drink in the sweetness of being cared for in a physical, tangible way. The memory of someone showing up with proof of their care will last long after the actual item brought.

Thank you for pointing out the ubiquitous "Let me know if you need anything" comment. 
 
When my son was dying, there were countless people who said that and then just sat back and . . . waited. . . for me to call them with a grocery list, or a request to cut the grass, or whatever.
 
Conversely, there were people who said it and then just . . . DID. . . something.  A gift card,  the McDonald's milkshake (that Mark mentions)
 
Then there were people I hadn't seen since high school (I graduated 25 years ago) and was never really great friends with who caught up with me on social networking sites, or from a friend of a friend, who were stealthy and left gift baskets on my front porch - with food, little gadgets to amuse my son, stickers, books, all manner of things.  
 
I know people mean well, and Mark is right when he says people say "Let me know if you need anything" because it's polite, and it absolves the person from their own guilt and helplessness.  But really - don't ask me to let you know, because I never will - 
 
 

I have had 4 children die in the last 6 years, a stillbirth, a miscarriage, a molar pregnancy, and a full-term loss due to complications of Trisomy 18. So many times, well meaning Christians have said the exact things in your list that have hurt me time and time again, esp. Rom 8:28. These words did a lot of damage and broke my heart. Now I am learning to speak up for myself. But, it has been a difficult journey of pain. We not only lost our children but we lost family, friends, and church family due to the fact they didn't want to take the time to understand our pain. Thank you for writing this article.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Oh Kristin. I am so very sorry to hear of your unspeakable losses PLURAL. . . and for the hurtfulness of well-meaning people. I ask the Lord to bring a deeper level of comfort than you have ever known before.

im only a junior in highschool.my bestfriend.lost someone a few days ago he was her best friend and like her brother.he was young like us just a couple of years older but his brother, last year died of the same thing he would be a senior this year. she hadnt fully got over the death of him.and now his brother died.she texted me randomly and told me.she acted like she was the one to blame.because he called her that nite but she ignored his calls.he left her voicemails which she still has saved.but i told her that he loved her that he didnt blame her for what happened to him. that god has his reasons.i only said that because god does have his reasons to doing what he does and i told her that i think he is happy that he was with his brother.because he was still tore up about it.for a year.but i feel like i said something wrong to her.i told her that i loved her and that if anything she needed that i was there and that she was my bestfriend and i know she'd be with me through whatever.i just wish i know one thing that can help her.because it hurts to see her in pain.i dont know how she feels ive never lost someone that close to me.i dont think many things can help someone with pain.but i wish there was something for her.because her and him were in it together to get over her bestfriend and his brother and now she feels like theres noone there to cry with or to fully understand what shes going through.because shes lost him as well.your advice is great by the way.you remind me of my grandma.very honest and wise.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Whitney,

I

As I write this, it is the fall of 2009. There is much I could write, but I don't want to give away too much identifying information about myself.

My mother died about a year ago. I don't know what is worse: the insensitive comments uttered by people, or being totally ignored when I need support.

I feel so angry and disappointed that I am not getting the support I need and want. I am totally mystified by people's lack of concern, that they can't be bothered to pick up a phone and see if I need to talk.

One group of people immediately sent me sympathy cards after I informed everyone of the death, but that was the last I heard from them.

These people never bothered to write me, phone me, or e-mail me again. It's like the initial sympathy card or e-mail was sent out of nothing more than politeness, not that they truly cared.

At least a few of these people who I contacted about the death, who I knew for years, totally ignored my mother's death. Didn't even get a sympathy card from these people.

Even so-called fellow Christians who have lost their own mothers have handed me cliches and platitudes, like some of the ones on your list.

I started going to a new church about two months ago, and one age 60ish lady there (I am much younger than she is) mentioned that her own mother died a few years ago. You'd think that would clue her in on how to behave towards my situation, right? Wrong!

This woman frequently hands me cliches (such as "Pray more," or "Just turn to God"). I know this woman means well, but...

That is offensive to me because it's implying that I am not praying or "turning to God" when in fact I have been doing those things all along. I've been a devout Christian my whole life, and I've been close to God since childhood.

Another aspect I resent about such advice is this: Prayer, church attendance, and Bible reading are not instant cures for grief and heartache, sorry. Mourning is a process, a very long process.

Prayer, Bible study, and church service attendance are not substitutes for a person to sit along side you and hold your hand as you cry your eyes out, or listen to you as you talk.

Either that lady I mentioned above hands me cliches, or at other times, she implies, in a very polite way, that it's self-centered and selfish of me to experience pain at the loss, or that I feel a need to talk about it.

She and one of my Aunts has actually told me a few times that I need to "think more about other people than about yourself" (again, the implication is that I am selfish or self centered). The church lady especially tends to say that line in a frustrated tone of voice, as though she is angry at me, not as though she's saying it in a loving way out of concern.

Since my mother died, I have in fact been helping other people, even though I did not feel like it, and even though I am in emotional pain myself. However, helping other people (including spending time at a charity helping those less fortunate) has not helped me or cheered me up.

For this church woman, or for anyone, to imply that what I'm going through is self-centered in any way, shape, or form, is untrue, and it is very offensive, rude, hurtful, and ignorant. It also adds more damage to someone who is already damaged.

This lady at my church, as well as one immediate family member, also keeps mentioning that "other people have it worse" than I do.

Well, yeah, I realize there are people in the world in worst situations than I'm in, but you know what? That doesn't change the fact that I am still hurting and still missing my Mom.

There are other problems with other people I've had since my mother's passing that have hurt me, but I'm trying not to give away too much information about myself. I think what I have written gives you an idea of some of the insensitivity I've been exposed to.

To Brandon Monson in the first post who said,
"I don't see anything wrong with that [citing certain Bible verses to a hurting person]"

I don't mean this in a sarcastic way, but I can only guess from your remark that you've never experienced a death of a close loved one. If you had, I doubt you would feel this way.

Brandon, I think you have to take it on a case by case basis. Some Christians who have experienced a death might not mind such comments offensive, but some might.

I think it depends on who is doing the Bible verse quoting, how they're doing it, when they are doing so, and how often they do so.

Quoting Bible verses at someone who just had a loved one die can be construed and viewed by that person as being a quick, cheap, easy answer, and therefore it will be seen as thoughtless and hurtful, not helpful.

Quoting Romans 8.28, or some such verse, might come across as though you don't genuinely care, because let's face it, it does not take much imagination or effort for a Christian to trot out a well-known Bible verse in a time of heartache.

The grieving person would likely appreciate it so much more if you gave of your time: sit with them and let them talk to you about what they are feeling for however long they need to talk, or phone them, and let them really talk about the pain they are experiencing. That will be more thoughtful and valuable than just quoting a verse at them.

By quoting verses such as Rom 8.28, you're also inadvertently pinning blame on God for the loved one's death. By saying "God is in control" and other such comments, you're making it sound as though God killed the person.

I personally did not experience anger at God when my mother died, I don't blame him for her death, but many people are quick to blame God when a parent, child, spouse or whomever dies. If you quote Ro8.28 at the person, you are only going to re enforce that anger at God, if that anger is already there.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Dear friend,

I am so sorry.

I am so sorry.

I am so sorry.

I just wince at everything you've said, which you have said with great articulation.

Sue, just the fact that you read my message and cared enough to take the time to reply to my message, means a lot, it really does.

I notice that you have taken the time out to respond to each and every hurting person that has posted here, and so I think highly of you for that. One of the reasons I posted at this blog is because you seem like a genuinely caring person, and I felt I could trust you.

I have some extended family in the area I live in now, and they are all well aware of my mother's death and other issues I am struggling with, and yet other than major holidays, they don't invite me over to their homes or phone me to ask how I'm doing, all of which is hurtful.

As a Christian, I've made a choice to forgive all these people, but I sometimes still feel hurt and anger. Losing Mom has been hard enough, but either not getting support from other people, or getting insensitive comments, makes it harder.

Thank you again for replying to my post. :o)

You make some good arguments.

I,m relieved that someone out there is as frustrated as me. Everything you said - I may as well have written myself. I had a stillborn baby less than four months ago and a four month miscarriage on Christmas morning before that. I am completely devastated to say the least. At first family and friends were supportive - about a week and a half- that's all the time they allowed. Then I started to be angry at God, and that's when they turned on me and got mad at me. They told me that maybe God had punished me for my pride. They compared me to everyone that had worse, same or less problems and how graciously they all dealt with it and left it up to God. I've gotten yelled at emotionally abused and hung up on - I've even been avoided, saying they can't talk to me anymore because I'm negative. My baby was born dead, I had to bury my beautiful son and I'm NEGATIVE! YOU THINK???????? That all just aggravates my feelings and confusion toward God. Then I have to listen to how God blessed my sister with a healthy baby 2 days before I had mine! He blessed my neighbor with a baby that I can see across the road every day! He also blessed a friend who had a baby a few weeks ago! He obviously didn't bless me! So did he curse me? I've decided to stay away from everyone for the time being and I'm fine with it. I like the isolation and I don't have to listen to any more bull----!
So if you ever want to vent- just write back

Sue Bohlin's picture

Oh Annah. Wow.

Wow.

I am so sorry! It's bad enough when you experience this kind of devastating loss, but when people judge you on top of it. . . oh, I am so very, very sorry.

No, God didn't curse you. There is biblical support for that idea, but that's not really what you're asking. You have been living in a crucible of suffering for which there is a good and eternal purpose, but you can't see it now. Having been in that crucible, I do understand.

And I pray for you to know God's comfort in your pain. And I ask for Him to send you people who are grounded enough in God's goodness that they can act like buckets, giving you grace to unload your pain and frustration until it's gone.

(I also apologize for the fact that your comment was published but I was not aware of it till today. Ouch.)

I lost my father on Easter Sunday of 2010. This was just 2 weeks ago to this day. The grief is still very fresh and overwhelming, but so far, I have heard a lot of these saying, especially the "If there is anything I can do, please let me know". After reading all these replies, I sincerely agree that this is a cliche that does absolve the giver of the comment from taking action and doing something kind. My sister has had meals cooked for her, flowers sent to her home, etc., and I have gotten 2 cards personally addressed to myself. It's not even the lack of cards or the fact that the friends I have haven't stepped in to say "Hey, do you need help around the house today?" or "Mind if I bring you over some dinner?", it's the fact that I'm seeing my other family members being treated so courteously by their friends and neighbors, and I'm left going "Wait! My house is a mess, I haven't eaten a real meal at my house in 2 weeks..." I really just want someone to wrap their arms around me and say "I'll help". My family doesn't have to do that, they are mourning just as much as I am, but what happened to my friends and neighbors?

My father was killed in a car accident while driving to another state to work on a project for his job. The shock of this whole situation and the lack of saying goodbye and all that is extremely difficult. With that being said, I had an aunt ask me this one sentence at the service (and this was all she asked): "How did you feel when you found out your father was dead?" This was while I was in the receiving line at the reception... I was literally awe-struck. All I could respond with (out of niceness I suppose) was "I was in disbelief. I just kept repeating the news to my mother on the phone and asking "My dad's dead? He died in a car wreck?". My aunt nodded then said "I found out my mom died early in the morning and I was driving and... blah blah blah. I don't even remember what else she said because I walked away. I don't know, I find that question completely insensitive. Almost like she was fishing for a good gossip story to share with the world.

And, of course, because it's a vehicle accident, I have heard "Was he wearing his seat belt? What did the blood tests show- was he drinking? Did he drown (he landed upside down in a creek- even more traumatic)? AND I lost my mother 6 years ago. This is too hard for me to talk to you about (from my best friend). I'm just glad I have a wonderful fiance, great family (for the most part), and a cat that really listens to me. And I'm thankful for those friends that do just hug me and say "I don't know what to say". Sometimes just saying that is more healing than "He's in a better place and having the time of his life...", as if to say at my home spending time with me is a worse place than he's in and he didn't enjoy the time with his daughters while on earth.

Wow, I didn't know I felt this frustrated.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Dear Car,

I am so sorry. You wrote so eloquently of what not to say to someone grieving, of how not to provoke someone in pain. And I am sorry that somehow your comment was published but I wasn't made aware of it till today. 

I'm glad this blog existed for you to write about the many ways in which your grief and shock and trauma were not honored. It made me wince with pain for you. I'm sure your grief is still raw, and you keep coming up on the "first" milestones of having to live through your father's absence for birthdays and other holidays. It's awful, awful, awful.

May you receive Jesus' comfort in each of the pain-filled moments, especially through thoughtful and sensitive people through whom He can love you.

Thank you for your great article and advice. After losing my baby, I realized very few in the church know what to do to those who grieve. It's really hard especially as a pastor who needed a pastor, but there was no pastor around. One of our church youth pastors said to me "Praise the LORD!" after my baby died. I was like "Excuse me?" "Praise the Lord she's not in pain anymore!" I was in such shock at the insensitivity of the comment, I didn't know how to respond. After a few days, I shared with him how hurt those words were, and that as a pastor, he needs to be more sensitive to people who are in pain. The result? Later on, he and his wife demanded an apology from ME!?!?! I was like, "for what?". He said I hurt his feelings by my comments. So after all that pain, without receiving an apology, I was the one who ended up having to say sorry to him. I'm still amazed by this whole ordeal. Anyways ... I needed to get that out of my system. Thanks again for the article.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Jay,

YIKES!! Oh, brother! I am SO sorry!! Sorry for the loss of your baby girl, sorry for the insensitivity of another staff man, sorry for the way he turned the tables on you and made the pain even worse.

We have come into a new time where people have assumed an entitlement to not be offended or to get their feelings hurt, regardless of the reason. We've replaced everyone's favorite verse, "Judge not lest ye be judged," with a new demand: "Offend me not. Ever."

For a fellow pastor to demand an apology for hurting his feelings when you were discipling him well by pointing out an area in which he needed to learn and grow is just jaw-dropping. When constructive criticism is met with defensiveness, that's flesh. . . but when the defensiveness grows into a demand for an apology for one's one fleshliness, that's just crazy-nuts-ugly. And I am sorry.

Thank you for sharing those comments on do's and don'ts. After having several miscarriages and a tubal pregnancy there have been many things said to me that seem really mean. I actually had someone tell me "Can't you take a hint! God doesn't want you to have children." I about died. As if I wasn't in enough pain ... as if I had not thought that a couple of million times already. I still have hope ... one day God will bless us with children. Whether through my body or adoption, but all I really needed was a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Please pray before you speak. God is good ... even through the pain He is our healer and comforter.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Thank you so much for contributing to a pain-filled list of what not to say to people in pain. I am so very sorry that you experienced this--both your losses and the insensitive responses.

It's bad enough when you have to live with the moment-by-moment trauma of losing a baby, but it's worse when it's several babies. . . and it's far, far worse when people make veiled comments about your apparently cluelessness or stupidity. Talk about rubbing salt into an open wound! What do we do with "Be fruitful and multiply" then? There are different ways of receiving children when your heart is committed to growing a family!

I pray that the darkest moments of your pain-filled losses will be overshadowed by greater joys that lie ahead for you.

I have read some of the posts and can completely relate.  People do not know what to do or say which is understandable (I do agree, some of the comments are completely crazy!!!) 

 Our daughter died after 17 days and it has been an unbelieveable tough 2 months.  I tried to go to church for the first time yesterday and cried through the whole thing.  I'm confused with my feelings and am trying to make sense of it all.  I do have a question that if there is a suggestion on how to handle, I would love to hear it.  I am a working mom and I did not hear from some people I work very closely with at all (I was in the hospital, baby came early, then she passed away, so we were in this situation for 45 days).  They knew about it and did not send an email, card or leave a voice mail???  How do I go back to work and not be so hurt that I never heard from them?

Sue Bohlin's picture

Britt, I am so very, very sorry for your daughter's homegoing. ::uploading hug::

Having been one of those people who didn't acknowledge a friend's huge loss, I was humbled, chastened, and very thankful for the way she handled it: one on one, in a private conversation, she said, "Sue, I was really hurt when you didn't do or say anything when my dad died. It was hard enough to lose my daddy, but it just sort of felt worse when I got ignored by people I was counting on to comfort me."

Ow. I needed to hear that. That was when I learned how incredibly important it is to do SOMETHING that says, "I know you're hurting and I'm sorry."

It's quite possible that your co-workers didn't know how important that is, or that each of them assumed someone else was doing "the compassionate and caring thing." It's also quite possible you would be doing them a big favor if you simply shared with them, in private conversations or notes, that while you're sure they didn't intend to be hurtful, it did hurt nonetheless. And that you are telling them this because you care about the relationship you have with each one, and this hurt is too big not to talk about.

The tears are going to flow for a while, I'm afraid, and church is probably going to be a primary place for that to happen because of the presence of God. And that's OK--part of being in community, in the body of Christ, is that we are honest about our sorrows so that others can comfort us with the comfort they have received from God

Again--I'm so sorry.

Sue

I'm so sorry for the loss of your daughter. It breaks my heart. My mother is now nine months pregnant and I am so attached to my brother inside her tummy that I can not leave her alone or not know where she is. I feel very protective of him and her. I would give my life for them. I would not know what to do if something happened to either of them. When I think of something like that happening my mind draws a blank as to what my days would look like. And maybe that is what your coworkers are facing. They may not know how to react, just as the same as you. Jesus comforts because he knows all sadness. He is the only  healer and He is watching over your precious daughter in heaven. When and if you go back to work I would not pretend as if nothing happened because I believe God calls us to live differently. I believe God works all things for good. And you never know, maybe when you go back to work you can be a light and a comforter for someone else. But never forget, Jesus will not leave us or forsake. He loves you.

I think the post that struck me most was AngelHalo because I saw me in his post.  I was just about in tears reading it because the same thing happened to me.  I lost my mother and father two months apart 5 years ago and my husband to cancer almost 13 years now.  It seems as thought I haven't been the same since my parents passed away, especially my mother.  I've been hanging in there but things are quite right.  Right now I am experiencing health difficulties and I am currently out of work because of it.  I am just dowright discouraged and going into depression.  My mother was my best friend and my husband took care of me when I was sick.  Like AngelHalo, every time I seek a shoulder to cry on or someone to sit with me, or just someone to talk to, I get comments like "stop having a pity party and don't let Satan steal your joy."  These are from my own friends.  I thought I could talk to my pastor but he told me I'm selfish and need to stop thinking of myself and look to God.  I am a Christian but it seems the place that I seek healing is the place that I walk out of with more anxiety.  I am tire of people telling me that I could have problems like so and so.  It seems that my christian friends preach in Bible studies that I shouldn't compare myself to other christians who are spritually mature yet it's okay to compare me with someone else when my emotions are frayed --- seems like they feel like doing it this when its convenient for them.

I was in a bad car accident 3 years ago and my friend tells me that the accident is God's way of telling me to move closer (I live 25 miles from my place of work and my place of worship).  Just recently, she tells me that maybe my current health condition is God telling me to go into another profession.  Who is she to tell me what God is telling me?  If you really care about me to help 25 miles shouldn't matter.  Sorry, but I'm angry and hurt.

I live alone and it's sure lonely when you don't have someone to talk to or take care of you when your sick.  Usually the people giving such great advice are married, have their grown children living with them, are retired, or are in a great financial situation.

Is anyone out there that understands.  I know God does and I do pray but I also need a shoulder to cry on.  Its obvious they are getting hard to come by.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Dear Louise,

I am so sorry for the huge losses of your husband and then both your parents. It sounds like you need to talk to people who have faced their grief and losses and know how to let you talk and cry and grieve and be angry. Are there any churches in your area that offer a GriefShare ministry? http://www.griefshare.org/ This has helped SO many people. I wish I knew where you were so I could help you find a group of people to help you walk out your grief. I send this with a prayer that God will direct you to a safe place to find people who want to help and are equipped to do so.

With deep sympathy,

Sue

I lost my grandmother just over 24 hours ago and was searching online for some comforting verses and stumbled across your article.  Interestingly enough I find it very helpful, almost so I can brace myself in case someone does say something insensitive to me, or my family.  My grandmother, 88, passed following a brief illness that was the result of a fall.  She and my grandfather, 94, were getting ready to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on the 17th of this month.  I feel so sad for him and haven't known what to say, other than "I love you, Pop."  Or just sitting with him, hugging him, or just holding his hand for a while.  My best friend also lost her grandfather just three days before I lost my grandmother.  We have been friends for nearly 20 years, and neither of us has experienced the loss of a loved one.  I was at a loss as to what to say to comfort her and the rest of her family- who have been like an extentension of my own family.  Instead I felt, the best things to offer them were hugs.  I was too afraid I may say something offensive or insensitive.  Oddly enough, I am glad to have read this so that I can prepare myself for the days ahead and pray for strength and comfort for my family and everyone around me greiving our losses.

Unless you have experienced the same pain and loss, you don't know what it feels like.  I feel blessed to have my friend and know her.  It seems so odd to me that we would both lose someone so important in each of our lives, so close to one another, but an odd blessing that we could be able to share with each other in such an intimate way.  Someone going through the same situation but also removed enough from my situation that we can talk about things and move through things in a different way.  The pain of losing a loved one is so intense, but for me, I have found comfort in the fact that this flood of emotions is normal.  I thank God that he blessed me with the family I have, especially for Granny, and for my "extended" family I have in my friend and her family, and the joy of having known her Grandpa. 

Sue Bohlin's picture

I am so sorry for your pain in the loss of your grandmother, and so glad God drew you here as sort of an emotional booster of perspective for dealing with the grief of the days to come. What a blessing to be able to share in your friend's grief as well! You are so right about the hugs and the "I love you"s. It is fruitless to try and find something to make people feel better or to make things all right again, so just BEING THERE in another's sadness is huge.

I found great comfort in reading all the posts.  I knew I wasn't alone with the insensitivity from others. 

Five years ago, I lost my little girl an hour after she was born.  I was 24 weeks, and nothing could be done to save her.  Even  though my husband and I knew it was the right thing to do, to let her go, it didn't make it any easier when someone dies in your arms.

The hardest was to finally put my daughter down and walk away and leave the hospital without her.

I am proud at how we gave her dignity with her buriel and how we celebrated her.  Just for being her.

However, NO ONE in my family nor my friends responded.  I made a couple of phone calls to let some people know.  But there were no return calls to see how we were doing.  We were given silence.  Six months later, a friend sent a poem, and was angry at me for not responding to her.  She said in an email "are you mad at me because I haven't talked to you in six months?"...DUH...she thought that I would be "over my situation" and maybe it would be safe to talk to me again about non-baby-death conversations.  Oh, she did send me a great Christmas card with her family and her 2 kids, talking about all the wonderful things they got to expierence with her kids.  REALLY? (I am no longer friends with her).

My family..the siblings....they know of my loss.  To this day, after 5 years, not one word of acknowledgement, compassion, sympathy, card, interest.  My father was the only one (mom has passed on over 10 years ago) who talked about my little girl.  I am met with anger by my siblings.  I have changed.  They don't like it because I am not the same doormat and they cannot guilt me into giving them 100% of my attention to them anymore. 

My husband has mentioned early on, that if I need to talk about the loss of our little girl, that to go see a counsellor.

I have experienced that the most insensitive people are the females with children.  I have no patience anymore in hearing that people don't know what to say, etc.  I am tired of Me having to be the understanding one that THEY may be uncomfortable.

The best thing for  someone to say:  I am so sorry for the loss of your ________.

The best thing for someone to do:  Hi.  I am checking up on you.

                                                               Hi,  I am coming over with some food for you.

                                                               Hi, I am doing this and this and that, etc.

So, to this day, I talk to no one.  Like someone mentioned earlier, I prefer to be alone, talk to God about my sorrow, and talk to my little girl and remember all the wonderful things I did to preserve her dignity, acknowledge her a human who lived on this earth, and what I did, as her mom, for her.  THAT gives me comfort.

I still hurt, and am sad and alone (yes, I am still married).  I always will be.  I will always have a big hole in my heart.  I will always feel like I am being punished.  I will always feel like it was my fault because my body rejected her. 

But, I will also, always smile because I KNOW that my little girl had the best mom and will make sure she will never be forgotten.

Sue Bohlin's picture

::Uploading a hug:: I am so very, very sorry for the huge hole your daughter's death has left in your heart. I pray you can find a group of people who will encourage you to talk about your experience until you're done talking about it.

Your grief and your pain matter. A LOT.

I am so sorry!

My husband died just 3 weeks ago and I want to let you know what very good friends do. My best friend since we started school together immediately came over to our home. Her husband went out and brought food. My friend stayed with me and helped in so many ways without being asked. She helped me clean up the house, made sure we ate, helped with making lists of things that needed to be done and places I needed to go when I could not think straight. Went with me when I needed her.  Quietly went elsewhere when I needed to spend time alone or with other family members. She helped me and my family  to host a reception after the service and helped clean up when it was over. We keep in touch almost everyday either by phone, email or visits. I have been to her house for dinner just to get a little break. I would wish everyone to have such a friend. Although it is a cliche, I simply could never thank her enough. I think that is what you call a BEST friend.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Please accept my deepest sympathies for your husband's loss. What a marvelous friend you have! Thank you for sharing how she blessed you.

May you walk in the awareness of your heavenly Father's love and comfort as you continue to grieve and to do life without your beloved.

I have no words to thank you for  putting a post like this as am in an agony for last few days.Last week my close friend met with an accident. she lost her whole family and God  saved her life alone.I had no words to convince her.I stayed with her all time and was trying to convince her in my own ways.But i don't know what to tell her actually to convince her.I know no words are enough for that but this post helped me a lot.I'm really thankful to u.

Sue Bohlin's picture

I am so sorry for your pain in loving your friend and walking through this hard time with her. And I'm so glad God brought you to this post where you can be equipped for that difficult journey. I send this with a prayer for you to experience the joy of His wisdom and His loving compassion as He expresses His love through you to your friend.

My Uncle recently died and my cousin(grandaughter of uncle) and i were talking about "stupid things ppl say when someone dies" so i decided to google some more, and yup most of the things that were said, were on your list.

Something someone said to me was soooo dumb that my cousin didnt believe me when i told her lol  Someone said to me "sorry about your luck"

That is probably the worse one I have ever come across...

Sue Bohlin's picture

Wow, Megan, that really is breathtaking! I'm glad your Google search brought you here.

And. . . I truly am sorry about your LOSS.

Not luck.

 

Sue

My father died March 25th, just 11 days ago. He was in a car accident and passed away because of his injuries. In all my life I never imagined for a second something this tragic would happen to my family, and yet we are supposed to find peace in knowing Dad would never have wanted to live in his condition and he is in a better place. That peace I so desperately seek seems so far away. Each time I think I have found the path towards it, I am reminded of the incredible void his death has left in my life, and then my heart breaks all over again. No one really knows what to say to anyone who is living through their grief. I know before Dad died, I had no idea and probably flubbed up my own expressions of sympathy. I felt it...I just coudn't get the words out correctly or adequately. I spent the last 11 days watching my father die and comforting complete strangers. I am here to tell you there are no absolute answers. I prayed to God to watch over my Dad, and He did. I prayed to God to give me the strength to get through this, and He did. I prayed to God to help my family heal, and He is.... just be there like you always were when things were fine. Be a friend, a shoulder, a tissue box holder...we don't care what you say...we just want you there.

Sue Bohlin's picture

Sherri, I am so very, very sorry to learn of your heartbreaking loss. Thank you for taking the time to write from the depths of your pain about how incredibly important being there is. I pray you will continue to know God's comfort like a warm blanket wrapped around your heart even as you learn to navigate the huge void your father left.

she died 3 years ago, for me it was yesterday. the people in my neighborhood are christians they were so happy she died.  they were over joyed.   they told me how she wanted to die, she wanted to be with jesus, so she wanted to die.  one person told me it is better they die when they are a baby than older, she was very happy.  i thought these people would break out in song and dance,  they were so happy.  these people drove me to stay in the house for 3 years, i have lived in isolation, i can not stand to listen to their joy any more.  it is like they hated her, and they wanted her dead, they didn't even know her. she was only a year old. i am an atheist, i could never hurt any one like they hurt me. i believe children have a right to live, this thing in the christian religion, that babies should die i will never understand.

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