Grief is a powerful emotion. If you know someone who is experiencing the pain of sudden loss, it’s natural for you to want to support them, but also not fully understand what’s okay to say and what isn’t. 

Even well-intentioned (but misguided) comments can inadvertently make the pain worse, according to experts like Redondo Beach personal injury attorney McLachlan Law. You need to be careful with your words to those who are mourning, and the following list should give you an idea of what you absolutely should not say if you want to avoid upsetting them.

The Rules When Talking To The Bereaved

Speaking broadly, there are certain tenets you should take to heart when engaging with someone experiencing grief. 

For instance, you don’t want to make the exchange all about yourself. Far too often, people will take advantage of someone else’s pain and refocus the loss on themselves. That kind of self-centered behavior, obviously, can frustrate those who are grieving more directly, so you should avoid it whenever possible.

Additional rules to remember when engaging with the bereaved are that you can’t truly brighten their mood with your comments alone, there isn’t really a “bright side” in the face of immense loss, religion should not enter the picture if they don’t share your beliefs, and, above all else, acknowledge their feelings as valid.

What Not To Say

So, with all that in mind, what are some specific things you shouldn’t say to a bereaved individual? Psychology Today has an interesting list on the topic, and you’ll notice that those phrases run counter to the rules we just established:

  • Why are you still crying?
  • You need to put this behind you?
  • There are people who have it worse off
  • God wanted them more than you
  • You can’t let your children see you this way
  • They brought it on themselves
  • Are you over it yet?

See how insensitive these remarks might come across to someone who just lost a friend or family member? Remember these phrases (and the spirit of what they entail), then avoid them when you’re trying to console someone who is grieving.

What To Say Instead 

Instead of insensitive or judgemental remarks, just try being supportive. You can do a lot by just offering your ear and listening to what your grieving friend/family member has to say. If you’re truly at a loss for what phrases would be acceptable, be sure you check out this list of empathetic alternatives you can use to replace less sensitive questions and comments.