What Not to Write…

...to someone who is mourning


What do you write to someone who is mourning the death of a close friend or family member?  When we don’t know what to say, it’s easy to write platitudes that are meaningless or can actually hurt the person we’re trying to help.

The words sympathy and compassion come from Greek and Latin words meaning “common feeling” or something “felt together.” Helping someone through bereavement means understanding what they are feeling—and that should be at the heart of our expressions of sympathy.

Here are some examples of things you should not write or say to someone who is grieving

“Be brave. Don’t cry.”
“It’s time to put this behind you and get on with your life.”
“You shouldn’t question God’s will.”
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
“You should get out more.”
“Death comes to all of us.”
“Death is a part of life.”
“This happened for the best.”
“It’s all part of God’s plan.”
“God must have needed her more than you did.”
“I know how you feel.”
“He’s in a better place.”
“He is looking down at you.”

Instead, here are some helpful things you can write or say that will validate the feelings of the person going through grief:
“I’m very sad for you.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I’m here and I want to listen.”
“I know this is a bad time for you, and I want to help.”
“How are you doing with this loss?”
“I’d like to help. What can I do for you?”
“Have you decided on a memorial service?”
“Take all the time you need.”
“Thank you for sharing your feelings with me.”