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What should I avoid saying to the bereaved?

Source: American Hospice Foundation

People sometimes worry that they will say the wrong thing. The following are some things to avoid:

  • “I know how you feel.” One can never know how another may feel. You could, instead, ask your friend to tell you how he or she feels.
  • “It’s part of God’s plan.” This phrase can make people angry and they often respond with, “What plan? Nobody told me about any plan.”
  • “Look at what you have to be thankful for.” They know they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important.
  • “He’s in a better place now.” The bereaved may or may not believe this. Keep your beliefs to yourself unless asked.
  • “This is behind you now; it’s time to get on with your life.” Sometimes the bereaved are resistant to getting on with because they feel this means “forgetting” their loved one. In addition, moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace.
  • Statements that begin with “You should” or “You will.” These statements are too directive. Instead you could begin your comments with: “Have you thought about. . .” or “You might. . .”

Posted in: Grief & Bereavement Questions, Most Common Questions