Help: Someone Died! What Do I Say Or Do?
I posted this on Facebook on November 17, 2015, and within a day it had been seen by over 1 million people and shared over 6k times. So I figured it was time to put it in a blog so it can be referred to again and again.
You asked for a quick and straightforward list to review when the time applies to you and yours so here it is. I realize there are hundreds more so, please feel free to add them in the comments section and I will add them to the blog. Also, I understand everyone grieves differently, and some of these won’t apply to everyone. From my years in the grief world, I’ve found they apply to most.
Let me give a few tips for those who don’t know how to be there for friends who are grieving.
1 – RUN TO THEM
Your first instinct is going to be to give them their space, WRONG ANSWER. Please don’t run away, go to them as fast as you can and keep going to them for years to come.
2 – Say the name of the person who passed and never stop saying it
Everyone is afraid to say the name of the deceased as if they never existed. This is one of the most painful experiences for nearly all grieving people. We never want to forget them so keep saying their name forever.
3 – Don’t say, “They are in a better place” or “God needed them more” or “God only gives you what you can handle”
These platitudes are just bullshit (excuses my language) and they don’t help at ALL. Even if the survivor is a person of faith I still find in most cases that these sentences do not offer any peace for a very long time. Maybe, MAYBE in several years these platitudes will offer some comfort but don’t be surprised if they never do.
4 – Don’t tell them to “move on” or “get over it”
Ugh, where do I start? Those who live with loss do not MOVE ON….we MOVE FORWARD, and we have no other choice. Daily we take steps to move our life forward, but we never forget the person who passed or the life we shared.
5 – Don’t ignore them thinking they need their space
For the love of all that is good – please don’t ignore the grieving. Take them to a funny movie, call them and offer to come over and hang for coffee, invite them to dinner. Sometimes they will say yes and sometimes they will say no but please don’t stop asking! There is no time frame either, so keep asking long after THE YEAR that society allows someone to grieve.
6 – Don’t say, “At least you had love” or “At least they lived a long life”
Yep, no help. NONE. Downright hurtful. There is no AT LEAST.
7 – Don’t ask what they need – do something for them
People who are grieving are often lost and a shell of a human themselves. If I’m honest, they don’t know what they need in life except for their loved one back. Just show up, take them dinner, babysit their kids and let them get a massage or a good cry. Just let them be NORMAL for a few minutes.
8 – Don’t expect them EVER to be the same EVER
Once you grieve, you are changed for LIFE! Never say, “I miss who you were before they died” because who they were before their person died, also died.
9 – Don’t be surprised or judgmental about anything they do
We all grieve in our way, yet nearly every grieving person I know has been judged for their process. See my blog: Widowhood and the Glass House of Grief
10 – Don’t say “I know how you feel”
Oh my, this one will get you in REAL trouble. I’ve heard it all from, “my goldfish died when I was 4” to “my friend’s grandma died four years ago, and I know how you feel.” Listen, I’m very sorry for your grief, but you do not know how I feel after the father of my two young kids and my partner died. See my blog: Widowhood and the Dangers of Grief Comparison
11 – Don’t Make People Replaceable
Somehow in our society, we believe that if a widow/widower remarries or starts dating or if a parent has another child – that they are somehow ALL BETTER — what a crock of crap. Listen, people are not replaceable, and love is not mutually exclusive. Loving one person does not replace the love you had for the other person who has passed on. See my blog: Dear Widow Police
12 – Don’t stop saying their loved one’s name
Oh, did I repeat that one? THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S FREAKING IMPORTANT. Six years later and I still want to hear about MITCH. Don’t worry, you saying their name does not remind us of our loss – we never forget.