In these awkward moments, some have spoken words they shouldn’t have.
I don’t think anyone was trying to hurt, but the inappropriateness of their comments did not console or comfort and came across as insincere and self-centered.
Please, let me help you understand what the message was that you unintentionally spoke to a grieving heart and, by this, may you understand how you can be a better help to others.
“I know how you feel, I lost my _______________ .”
Those who are sincerely trying to comfort others have never said these words to the grieving. Never! When a person brings up their personal recollection of loss, while someone is grieving, it offers no comfort at all. There is no sincerity in making these comparisons.
“I’m here for you.”
I will know you are ‘here for me’ because you have always been there for me (or for my daughter). Grief is too exhausting to try and start a new relationship.
“Call me if there is anything I can do for you.”
Sincere folks didn’t wait for me to call, they found something needing to be done and did it.
“At least you still have other children.”
The uniqueness of each child is irreplaceable. Such a statement diminishes the uniqueness of my daughter and suggests my grief should be less because I have more children.
“When my loved-one died, they had something more tragic happen to them, so my grief is deeper than yours.”
Grief is not competitive. Grief is the measure of love, not the measure of tragedy. It is insincere to make comparisons.
“I grieve for my daughter, too. She’s not dead but she is so disrespectful to me that it breaks my heart and makes me feel like I have lost her, too.”
Those who think dysfunctional family relationships are on equal status with the death of a loved-one are delusional. And, I wonder, could this possibly be the reason why their relationship is so dysfunctional?
We are all self-centered human beings. And, when we are attempting to console a broken heart, the awkwardness of the moment can cause us to default to our grief, instead of their’s. We need to be aware of this tendency so we will purposely avoid making such inappropriate statements to those who are grieving.
“God must have wanted your daughter for his garden and he took her on to heaven.”
Common cliches, like this one, are a person’s attempt to say something godly in a moment of feeling awkward with grief. God does not pluck living souls for a heavenly garden, and, He is also not adding jewels to His crown.
“Your angel is watching over you now.”
Angels are created beings and the living do not die and become angels. Those who know the Lord as their personal Savior are saints, and God does not give departed saints the task of watching over anyone.
If you don’t know what to say it really is alright not to say anything at all.
Sincere silence is always better than insincere cliches.
I would like to offer a few suggestions as to what can be said and what might be done for those who have recently suffered the devastating death of a loved-one:
“I don’t know what you’re going through.”
This is always true because grief is measured by love, and we do not know the personal depth of relationships, however, we still need to try to understand.
“I am so sorry.”
Is always appropriate.
“I am praying for you.”
Please be honest when you speak these words. The grieving need lots of prayer.
“I will bring a meal over later today.”
Acts of kindness are always welcomed.
“I know you have unexpected expenses so I put something in this card to help out a bit.”
Unexpected expenses, this is an understatement! Especially for parents burying their single adult child. Unless their child is terminally ill, parents do not make preparations for their child’s death.
“Do you have family coming in? I can pick them up from the airport for you. I have an extra vehicle you can borrow. I have an extra room you can use.”
Try to imagine what arrangements might need to be made, particular to each situation, and see how you might be able to lend a helping hand.
“I found these pictures of your loved-one, I made copies and thought you might like them.”
One of Kimberly’s friends did this for me, and I so loved going through their shared memories. Such a blessing!
“I wanted to share a memory I have of your daughter so I wrote it down in this card.”
I have kept every card, note, letter, and facebook posting in an effort to hold on to memories of my daughter. Sharing memories with me is something I cherish as dearly as my daughter.
“I have no words, I just want to hug you.”
Hugs are always special.
“My child died, too. I just want to hug you.”
Embracing other grieving parents speaks words that only our heart knows.
"...that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary..." ~ Isaiah 50:4
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." ~ Proverbs 25:11
"...and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!" ~ Proverbs 15:23
"Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." ~ Colossians 4:6
After reading this post, a sweet young mother posted this to me:
"It has me wondering when it is wise to bring up your own experiences and when to be silent in another’s grief."
The best time to bring up one’s personal grief, when counseling others in their grief, is when they ask. Wait for that moment to present it’s self. Listening to someone’s pain is always more important than expressing your own. Until they know you are hearing them, they are unable to hear you.