what not to say to someone experiencing grief

*this post has been updated as of January 16, 2019

Sometimes people say the wrong things. Sometimes, they are hurtful. Most of the time, they are not meant to be hurtful. People can be so desperate to help the grieving that they will literally say anything, anything they might think is comforting to you. Most people to do not experience intense grief in their life. This lack of experience can sometimes contribute to inappropriate comments. In this post I will go through what not to say. Some will pertain to when Harrison was in the NICU, and some after he left.

I will then make an additional post explaining tips and comments that help those experiencing grief. Please feel free to comment on this post and the next adding anything that you feel is inappropriate/helpful!

  1. It’s going to be okay, I can just feel it. I just know everything is going to be okay. (People used to say this to me while Harrison was struggling and barely hanging on in the NICU. It essentially invalidates fears and concerns the grieving is trying to express)
  2. You’re young, you can have another. (But what about this one? Was he insignificant?)
  3. At least you have your other child. (My previous grief counselors secretary said this to me. I was so shocked I could not even say anything in response.)
  4. At least you’re able to get pregnant. (Someone said this to me shortly after Harrison went to heaven. They had a history of miscarriages. I also suffered 2 miscarriages before getting pregnant with Harrison. For me, the miscarriages hurt, and I felt sadness and confusion, but they did not even come close to the pain I felt after loosing Harrison)
  5. It just wasn’t meant to be. (But he was.)
  6. He’s in a better place now. (No better place than with his momma)
  7. Everything happens for a reason. (I am still struggling with this one. I hear it often enough. What could the reason be? If you find it, please tell me.)
  8. God needed him more than you. (Really?)
  9. God only gives you what you can handle. (Okay, so I can handle the fact that I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown, switched jobs twice in 6 months, and still keep shit together for my 7 year old daughter and maintain a normal marriage? And God said I could? That does NOT make me feel better.)
  10. You’re so strong, I could never do it if I were you. (You would most definitely do it if you were me. When your child is in the hospital, you have no further answers, are waiting on additional testing, trying to pay your student loans, working night shift, PLUS getting your other kid to school, and splitting time between home and hospital, your life literally is DO or DIE. You will run on fumes because you have no choice. I can promise you that)
  11. *You’re too negative for me. (Someone I thought was a good friend of mine recently said this to me. I am 10 months out from my sons death. His time in the NICU and his eventual passing CHANGED me. My outlook has changed. My energy level has changed. My family dynamics have changed. My emotions have changed. I am more negative. I’ve literally had the worst year of my life. My life has been turned upside down and we are slowly trying to piece things back together. It’s not easy for anyone experiencing this level of grief.

There are many others. I am thinking I may update this list periodically. Basically, don’t say things that invalidate the persons worries, concerns, sadness, emptiness, anger or grief. If you don’t know what to say, simply saying “I’m sorry for your loss” is enough.

In my experience, those who have lost a loved one, don’t mind talking about them. Yea the details may be a little emotional, the person may cry, this has happened to me. Sometimes people ask me what happened to Harrison. Sometimes I’m not sure what to say. I will post Harrison’s story eventually in different parts. Going through his 3 month journey from before his birth to his passing is nothing short of difficult. I love talking about the little guy, but I don’t always like to talk about the sad things that happened to him. It’s emotionally exhausting, and I’m not sure I’m at a point in my own grief where I can go through it all.

Please feel free to comment on this post any hurtful/inappropriate comments and how you handled them!

Coming soon will be the post on how to help, what to say and other tips.

Thank you for visiting and reading!

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2 thoughts on “what not to say to someone experiencing grief”

  1. Can you tell me what is appropriate to say? To anyone grieving any loss. Because I have literally said all the wrong things. I guess I just want to comfort the loss and make them feel better but is there such a thing that someone else can do? Or is it just what you yourself has to feel better from? Suggestions?

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    1. I have said the wrong things too. Many times. I think the best comments are the ones that acknowledge the sadness. “I’m so sorry for you loss, We know you are hurting, when you are ready to talk, I am here for you, can I help you with dinner? We are thinking of you and Your loved one.” It’s hard to say the right things. I’m not mad at anyone for saying any of these things to me or us. Sometimes it hurts but I think people just don’t know.

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