When someone you know is going through the grief of losing a loved one, it’s natural to want to offer comfort and support. But despite our best intentions, we might end up saying things that do more harm than good. Words hold power, and in sensitive moments, they can either heal or wound. Here are six phrases that, despite their common usage, are better left unsaid during times of grief.
“I Know How You Feel”
This phrase is often spoken with the best of intentions but can end up diminishing the unique pain the grieving person is experiencing. The truth is, no one can fully understand how another person feels. Saying “I know how you feel” can come across as presumptive, dismissing their unique emotional journey.
“You’ll Get Over It”
This well-meaning but insensitive phrase implies that grief is an obstacle to be surmounted quickly. However, grief is a complex process that takes time and cannot be rushed. By suggesting they’ll “get over it,” you risk trivializing the deep emotional pain they’re going through.
“Keep a Stiff Upper Lip”
Telling someone to be stoic or suppress their emotions negates the therapeutic power of grieving openly. It’s an invitation to emotional seclusion, pressuring the person to put on a brave face when they should be allowed to feel their feelings in full.
“All Things Work Together for the Good”
Though rooted in Romans 8:28, this phrase is often inappropriate for someone in the throes of grief. While the verse is theologically true, quoting it to someone who’s grieving might come off as dismissive and out of touch with their immediate, raw feelings.
Crying is a natural, therapeutic part of the grieving process. It’s a way for the soul to breathe, for pent-up emotions to find a release. Telling someone not to cry can feel like an imposition, disregarding the emotional relief that crying can bring.
“Time Heals All Wounds”
Although time can provide distance and perspective, it doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds. For many, the pain of losing a loved one never entirely goes away; they merely learn to live with it. Declaring that “time heals” can feel dismissive and unrealistic to someone enduring the immediate pain of loss.
In the Silence, Comfort Resides
Sometimes the most powerful thing you can offer is your quiet, steadfast presence. In the absence of words, your supportive silence can speak volumes. At times when words fall short, your comforting presence might be the most heartfelt communication of all.
So when you find yourself at a loss for words in the face of someone’s grief, perhaps simply being there is enough. Offer a hug, hold a hand, or sit together in understanding silence. Let your presence say, “I’m here for you,” in a way words never could.