experience loss

The 6 Worst Things to Say to Someone Who has Experienced Loss

This past year, two families at our church experienced loss when their teens died in tragic circumstances and a young man lost his wife to cancer. Love poured out and covered all three homes. The support has been deep and ongoing. People have been wonderfully kind. The families have been gracious. Yet, despite good teaching and ongoing work, men still find themselves emotionally ill-equipped when it comes to grief and support and – generally – “handling it.” Sometimes we say the worst things to someone who has experienced loss.

Despite good teaching, men still find themselves emotionally ill-equipped when it comes to grief and support.

It’s okay, we all struggle with this. But grief is real and we can do better. We lose parents, we lose wives, and sometimes, we even lose our children. No judgment here, just some encouragement to be there for our brothers, and to swap out fear and distance for some grace and compassion. Take a few moments to think about the following list – along with some positive suggestions – of the six worst things to say to someone who has experienced loss:

1. Nothing

Saying nothing won’t work, because it’s important to acknowledge the loss, and it’s important to be there. If there’s nothing else to say, simply say, “I’m sorry.”

2. “God needed him/her up in heaven more than you needed him/her here.”

Please don’t say that. Instead, say, “I don’t want you to walk through this alone.” Say, “I know you miss her like crazy.” Say, “I know this has to hurt so badly, let me be with you.” Then follow through.

3. “He/she died too young. It’s too bad he/she didn’t get to live a full life.”

How can you measure a life? There is no measuring rod for the right amount of time. Every life is a complete one. Instead, say, “Your child made me smile.” Then tell your friend how.

4. “One day you will understand what the universe was trying to teach you through this.”

No. That’s patronizing. Nobody needs to hear that. Try saying, “I don’t understand either, but I do know how much you are loved and how much your family has always meant to me.”

5. “Think of all the good that will come from this!”

What’s a lot better to say is “Let me buy you lunch next week.” Then listen. Then repeat the invitation. Then do it again and again. Say, “Text me any time you want to talk.” Then check in on a regular basis. Be persistent.

6. “I guess it was just his/her time. His/her number came up.”

Not helpful. Your friend doesn’t want you to explain this; he wants you to be there. Try, “It’s never easy to say goodbye.” Say, “I am so sorry for your loss.”

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What helps you feel better when you’re feeling sad?”