Well, then, what SHOULD I say?

Posted on April 26, 2017 by Errol Castens under Community, Grief, People
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Even with the best of intentions,

it’s easy to say something that could be unhelpful – or even downright hurtful – to people who are grieving.

Nancy Guthrie’s book, What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts), offers some safe ground. Her insights come from being that grieving person after both of her children died from a genetic disease and from years of conducting retreats, with her husband, for other couples who have children who died.

Guthrie reminds us, “Even if you come up with the perfect thing to say (as if there is such a thing), it simply won’t fix the hurt or solve the problem of the people who are grieving. Does that take some pressure off? … Your purpose in saying something is to enter into the hurt with them and let them know they are not alone.”

In our efforts to comfort others in their grief, here are some statements that Guthrie offers as fairly safe ground:
• “It is so hard to think about life here without [name of the person who died]. I miss her already.”
• “Some people want to compare loss, but it all just hurts to the person who has experienced it. I’m sorry you are hurting.”
• “I know we’ll never understand exactly why this has happened, but I am praying God will allow you to see some ways He is using it for good.”
• Instead of “How are you?” – a question that often feels to a grieving person like a demand for a progress report – consider these possibilities:

o “What is your grief like these days?”

o “I can’t imagine how hard it must be to face these days without [name of the person who died]. Are there particular times of day or days of the weeks you’re finding especially hard?”

o “I find myself missing [name of the person who died] when I [fill in the blank].”

o “Are there particular things I could be praying for you as you go through this time of grief?”

o “I know that [deceased’s] [birthday/death anniversary] is coming up, and it must be so very hard to anticipate. What could we do to help you through that day?”

• And in the early days of a loss – when you’re at the visitation or funeral, for instance – you can always say:

o “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

o “I’m so sad with you.”

o “You can be sure that [name of the deceased] will not be forgotten. I will never forget him.”

o “One of my favorite memories of [name of the person who died] is … .”

o “I don’t presume to have anything to say that would make this OK. But I do want you to know how much I care.”

o “I wish I could take some of the pain you’re feeling and bear it for you. I know I can’t, but please know I’m feeling it with you.”

o “I don’t know why this has happened.”

o “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.”
NOTE: This blog series is adapted from What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts) by Nancy Guthrie, © 2016. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org

Errol Castens

Aftercare coordinator, Coleman Funeral Home of Oxford/Olive Branch

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