The Power of Words

When someone you know and care about loses a loved one, many of us struggle to know what to say or how to communicate. The Children’s Grief Education Association offers the following helpful list.

Offering support to a grieving loved one can begin with a simple statement or open-ended questions. Here are some conversation starters:
  • I’m sorry your mom / dad / sister died.
  • What was your dad / mom / brother like?
  • What was his favorite food?
  • What do you miss most?
  • What is the hardest part for you?
  • What is the hardest time of day for you?
  • I cannot know how you feel, but I remember how I felt when my _____ died.
  • I care about you.
  • I care about how you are feeling.
  • Is there anything I can do to help?
  • Is there anything I can change to make you feel more comfortable?
  • Would you like to talk about it?
  • I’m available at this time, if you would like to come by to talk.
  • Whenever you want to talk about it, I’m here for you.
  • I’m thinking about you today because I’m aware that today is your _____’s birthday (anniversary of the death, your birthday, etc.)
  • I’m here to listen if you want to talk, or just spend time together if you don’t want to talk.
  • When is your recital (game, rehearsal, etc.)? Would it be okay if I stop by?
The following are a few of the potentially harmful comments that are often offered when someone is grieving the loss of a loved one:
  • I know just how you feel.
  • I know just how you feel… my dog died last year.
  • Lick your wounds and move on.
  • You’ll get over it.
  • Don’t think about it.
  • You are better off without him.
  • Don’t cry.
  • It’s your fault.
  • You drove your father to drink.
  • If only you had ______
  • Tears won’t bring her / him back.
  • Be strong.
  • Forget about it.
  • You are the man / woman of the house now.
  • You SHOULD feel… (proud, relieved, happy, sad, etc.)
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