I recently read a long string of “supportive” comments on Facebook to someone who had just suffered a devastating loss. I know people mean well, but many of the usual things people say do not help, and in fact may well make things worse.
1. At the very top of my list is, “It was God’s will.” Even if this is true – which I don’t believe – it is not helpful. It is not comforting, at ALL. Think about it – if you lost a child to cancer or an accident, do you really want to contemplate that God WANTED that to happen? The only exception to this is if the person who suffered the loss says it. I still don’t buy it, but I’m certainly not going to argue if they can self-comfort with the thought.
2. Right up there with #1 is “There’s a reason for everything.” Again, I don’t believe it. I suppose you could argue that there is always cause and effect at work, but that doesn’t mean there’s a GOOD reason for everything. And even if there were… again, not comforting. And again, the only appropriate use of this is by the ones who are suffering and can comfort themselves with this idea.
3. In the case of a miscarriage, don’t tell someone, “Well, there probably was something wrong with the baby, so it is for the best.” Seriously, this is not comforting. It is the exact opposite of comforting.
4. Along with that one is, “You will have more children.” Would you tell someone whose spouse just died, “Well, you can always get married again.” ?
5. Don’t go into a long lecture about how a loss you have suffered is so much worse than that of the one you are talking to. This forces the listener into an attitude of comfort for you, and that is the last thing they need to be doing at this point. This includes statements such as, “Well, at least they didn’t suffer as long as my [insert relative] did.”
6. Here are a couple that aren’t harmful, but, in my opinion, are not really helpful either: “At least he is not suffering any more,” and “He is in a better place.” It IS good to know that someone you love is no longer suffering, but that doesn’t make you miss him or her less.
Those who are on the receiving end of any of these statements need to remember that those who say them are doing so with love, because they feel helpless to fix the problem and must say SOMETHING. Just reply with, “Thank you,” and move on.
Many times silence with a hug is far better than anything you can say. If you must say something, try one of these:
1. I’m so sorry for your loss.
2. I can’t even imagine what you must be going through.
3. I love you.
4. You’re in my heart and in my prayers.
5. Call me, day or night, if you need to talk or cry.
I am by no means perfect when it comes to handling grieving people. These are just my thoughts, and I hope they are helpful to you.