Even people who have the social skills to be gracious in a variety of situations are frequently at a loss when it comes to finding the right words for those who have recently experienced the death of a loved one. People often feel that they have to say something profound and meaningful at such times, and therefore often say just the wrong thing. If you feel tongue-tied when it comes to talking with those who have experienced a recent loss, that's a sign that you need to stick to the simple and mundane rather than trying for a deep or powerful statement. Talk about the weather, about the game, about the price of broccoli at the local market, or about anything else that's a normal part of everyday life. Following are five things you should refrain from saying the newly bereaved.
I Know How You Feel
You don't know how anyone else feels, and even if you have been through a similar bereavement, this isn't about you. Keep in mind that everyone reacts to these situations in different ways, and the newly bereaved may resent being told that others know exactly how they feel.
You Must Be Strong
The chances are pretty good that the newly bereaved already know that it's going to take a great deal of emotional strength to get them through the rough times ahead, so there is no need to remind them. That particular statement is also just vaguely judgmental enough so that the person may feel that he or she has to remain unnaturally stoic in your presence.
He's in a Better Place Now
Just say no to this one -- bite your tongue off if you have to in order to avoid this statement from passing your lips. Even though we may know our loved one is in a better place, the truth is we want them with us.
Everything Happens for a Reason
This one's a kissing cousin to the above statement and just as worthy of being stopped in its tracks by a quick bite to the tongue. No one wants or needs to hear that the death of a loved one happened for a reason. You might be able to slide this one by someone who has lost a relative or friend who has lived to a very old age, but it's particularly insensitive to those who have lost children or spouses.
Time Heals All Wounds
No need to trot out this tired old cliche either. The bereaved knows, on some level, that time is the friend of those who have recently experienced the death of a loved one and doesn't need to hear it from you. At best, it sounds shallow and empty, and at worst, it sounds somewhat dismissive of what the person is going through in the here and now.
So what do you talk about with someone whose loved one has recently died? What you don't say is probably more important in these circumstances than what you actually do say. Because knowing what to say is difficult, it's easy to give in to the temptation to offer cliches and platitudes. They'll hear enough of these in the coming days and weeks, so keep your communication simple, thoughtful, and kind instead of trying to offer deep, profound statements. Everyone else will already be doing that.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Legacy Headstones, a leading Ohio-based headstone manufacturer and vendor.