Responding to Grief and Loss…What NOT to say

I want to dedicate this post to my fellow blogger  teanacious who recently lost his father.

He published a post earlier today titled “I know what you’re going through” , airing his frustration with these words from well-meaning people.  I can understand that a lot of people just don’t know what to say when someone is grieving such a loss. Maybe I can help here.

For one…when you have lost someone close to you the last thing you want to hear about is someone else’s loss. You are in so much pain and bewilderment at this loss that there is no room for anyone else’s grief, and this is okay.

Secondly…Even if you have lost your own father, or uncle or cousin…there is no way that your feelings and your friend’s are going to be exactly the same. Everyone experiences the loss of a loved one differently. We have no idea what kind of relationship they may or may not have had, and any kind of loss through death is an individual experience.

Thirdly…this “I know what you’re going through” can sometimes come off sounding like a competition, like you are trying to top the other person’s grief. I know it’s not intended, but it can feel that way to the person who is suffering the loss.

So, what do you say to someone who has just lost a dear loved one? “I’m so sorry for your loss” of course is simple, but it can be worded however you wish. It conveys your concern and sympathy. Offer to listen if they want to talk about it. Let them know you are there for them. Give to them all the comfort you can through words, but please, don’t say you understand what they are going through, because you can’t possibly. You and they are different people. Show compassion, concern, love and a willingness to listen.

And to my dear friend teanacious …I am so sorry for your loss and for the pain you are going through. I pray you and your family will find some comfort in the coming days, weeks, and years without your beloved father.


12 comments on “Responding to Grief and Loss…What NOT to say

  1. Difficult one for sure. There is no right and no wrong way to grieve or to converse with someone who is – that’s my take on it.

    When I was widowed (or should that be widowered?) I personally got sick of all the tea and sympathy. Acknowledgement of the situation was fine, but I ended up hating the term ‘sorry for your loss’. After all, I was still here, it was my wife who had ‘lost’, not me.

    We all have to die sometimes, that’s a given fact, and the fact that I was there and held her as she passed made me so happy. Some people were outraged at this, but to me, I still to this day feel so honoured that she asked me to hold her in my arms until she was gone.

    So what I did love to hear, was comments about her, not ‘my loss’. Things like “I was honoured to be her friend”, “They must be going mad up in heaven now she’s there”, or “You guys had a great life together, you must be very lost right now, but those memories are safe forever”.

    Yes, the simple acknowledgement of her passing was ok, but a shared happiness for her memory was far more important and far more valuable to me as the young grieving widower. I came over to Turkey within a few days, and the attitude here was so refreshing… “Aww, sad news, she was so lovely. Want a cup of tea?” – no maudlin, no bleating, just acceptance and celebration of the person she was.

    I don’t ‘mark’ her ‘angel day’ any more. But I always celebrate her birthday. After all, what was more important, the day she came into this world, or the day she left? It’s her birthday in 2 days time, and I have penned a special tale of hers to tell. Now THAT, for me, is how to grieve, and I know her friends and family will be saying positive things on Saturday, not thinking sad thoughts.

    As I say, it’s a very difficult one…


    • Amen to this response Spike. I grieve the same way that you do…I never understood my mother mourning every August for her mother and my step-father’s deaths, and my sister now mourning every Dec. 4th for my mother’s death..I mean she lived the other 364 days of that I say celebrate her life! I’m glad that you were able to be with your wife in that way. I believe that you and I are kindred spirits when it comes to how we view life…and death. 🙂


  2. Kim,

    Thank you again for your kind words. You’re a very thoughtful and caring person to take the time to write such a beautiful piece for a fellow blogger. I’m very moved by your words and kindness.

    @Priceless Joy – You’re absolutely right. Awkward condolences are better than no condolences at all. No question about that.

    Thank you, everyone of you, for your kind words. I’m sure you all have had to deal with personal tragedies; and I know I’m not the only person who has lost a parent in this world.

    The only way I’ve been able to deal with this is by using the craft that we all use: Writing. I’m not great at it yet, but it helps me a lot when I try to turn my feelings into words. If any of you took a look at my page, you’ll notice that lately my writing has been very sad; I apologize for this and will try to write about other things soon enough.

    – Nigel Nicholas aka Teanacious


    • Dearest Nigel, I thing you and I have the habit of apologizing for our feelings, and especially our need to let it all out in words. Let’s both promise to try and stop doing that, especially here. Our blogs are here for expression, to give us that chance to let it all go…with no apologies. Write as much as you want, and what you want hon…this is therapy of the best kind. Take as long as you need to be sad…we will still be here for you. Yes, we’ve all had to deal with loss…but right now…this is about YOU..and this is okay.



  3. So true – your comment that someone who is going through grief just does not have energy or emotion to spare for others is so so true. Grief is an absolutely exhausting emotion to process. I really agree with your suggestions – just to offer support and caring is really all we can do and is the most helpful.


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