One expert suggests to “…Say nothing. Listen. Be with the person.”
Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, lost his son, Aaron, when he was 14 years old.
Kushner explained, “At some of the darkest moments in my life, some people I thought of as friends deserted me — some because they cared about me and it hurt them to see me in pain; others because I reminded them of their own vulnerability and that was more than they could handle. But real friends overcame their discomfort and came to sit with me. If they had not words to make me feel better, they sat in silence (much better than saying, “You’ll get over it” or “It’s not so bad; others have it worse”) and I loved them for it.”
So, what don’t you say to someone grieving the loss of a child or teenager?
Laurie Burrows Grad offers this list of the worst platitudes and insensitive clichés to those in mourning:
He’s in a better place. (A better place would be beside me now.)
Everything happens for a reason. (There is no rhyme or reason for this kind of loss.)
Time heals all wounds. (Time doesn’t heal all wounds, although healing takes time.)
Try not to cry. He wouldn’t want you to cry. (He’d be bawling his eyes out.)
It is time to put this behind you. (There is no timetable for grief.)
If you think this is bad, let me tell you about the time … (No comparisons, please.)
I know how you feel. (Do we ever really know how someone feels?)
Let me tell you about my own loss, which is similar to yours. (Please just listen and acknowledge my loss.)
You’ll get through it. Be strong. (This tells people to hold on to their grief and not let it out.)
Grad suggests these kind words to comfort someone in times of grief:
I am sorry for your loss.
I love you.
I wish I had the right words to comfort you. Just know that I care.
I don’t know how you feel, but I am available to help in any way I can.
How can I help or support you?
My favorite memory of your loved one is …
How are you doing?
Say nothing. Listen. Be with the person.