17 Things You Should Never Say to a Grieving Person

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By Darryl Henderson

Losing someone can be incredibly painful. If someone you know is in a period of grief, it is difficult to know what to say to them, as you don’t want to upset them further. Here are 17 things you should never say to a mourning person.

“At least they’re in a better place now.”

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Implying that someone’s loved one is in a better place can come across as dismissive, as it minimizes the pain of loss. It can also be offensive, as it shifts their thoughts about the present moment onto the idea of an afterlife, which may not align with their beliefs.

“I know how you feel.”

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While putting yourself in someone else’s shoes may seem like a good idea, the New York Times highlights that too many friends and acquaintances want to talk about how your loss affects them. These words can invalidate their grief, as you are shifting the attention to you.

“It’s time to move on.”

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Giving someone a timeframe for moving on isn’t helpful and can put pressure on the grieving person. As we all grieve in different ways, some people may take more time than others to heal from the bereavement. This can make them feel guilty for taking longer than expected.

“You should be grateful for the time you had.”

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While it’s good to suggest gratitude to the grieving person, it makes them feel as though they are selfish for wanting more time with their loved one. It may come off as insensitive if said too soon after the loss, as it overlooks the intensity of the grief.

“You’re so strong.”

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Complimenting someone who is grieving may be done with good intentions. However, these words may make the person in mourning feel pressure to hide their emotions and refrain from showing any weakness. This can inhibit them from processing their grief in an authentic way.

“It’s God’s plan.”

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For those who are religious, relating the death of someone to God’s plan may be somewhat comforting. However, for most people, this statement can be hurtful, especially if they don’t share the same beliefs or are struggling to reconcile their faith with their grief.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

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Although you may mean well when saying this, this phrase can be perceived as dismissive or even offensive, as it implies that the loss serves some greater purpose. Instead, according to Psychology Today, more important than what you say is being willing to sit with that person in compassionate silence.

“You need to be strong for others.”

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Implying that a grieving person needs to be strong for other people makes them feel responsible for others. It places undue pressure on the grieving person to suppress their emotions for the sake of others, neglecting their own need for support and understanding.

“You’ll find someone else.”

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In cases where someone’s partner has died, suggesting that they will find someone else is incredibly insensitive. In a period of mourning, their mind is focused on grieving the life they had with someone, not replacing a lost relationship and getting rid of memories.

“They wouldn’t want you to be sad.”

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This statement undermines the feelings of the grieving person and minimizes their emotions by speaking on behalf of the deceased person. Business Insider suggests that you should also focus on happy memories and validating your friend’s emotions, rather than dwelling on what could have been.

“It’s just a pet.”

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Pets are held dear by many people, and we become bereft when they pass. Telling someone that the death of a pet doesn’t matter minimizes the significance of the bond between the grieving person and their pet, disregarding the deep emotional connection many people have with their animal companions.

“Don’t get upset about it.”

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Crying and getting worked up are normal when grieving a loved one. Therefore, it is not a good idea to warn someone about getting upset. This makes them feel as though they can’t let their emotions out and that there is no safe space for them to cry.

“They died ages ago.”

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Even if someone has passed a long time ago, it is not wise to bring this up to someone, especially if they are not over it yet. Instead, Psych Central suggests that validating what they’re feeling or experiencing during a period of grief can help them feel less alone.

“You’ll get over it.”

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Telling someone to get over someone’s death is extremely brutal. This approach is harsh and can be dismissive of the depth of the grieving person’s emotions and the lasting impact of their loss. It comes across as if you are pressuring them to let that person go.

“It’s time to put it behind you.”

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Leaving someone in the past isn’t easy, and it is a process that isn’t helped if someone is urging you to put it behind you. Instead of honoring their grief and respecting how long it takes them to let someone go, you are prompting them to hurry up their mourning process.

“You just need to keep busy.”

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Keeping busy can help some people get over someone’s death quicker. However, telling someone to keep busy is not a solution to grief, especially in cases where someone is completely devastated and debilitated by the loss of someone else and is unable to carry out basic tasks.

“Time heals all wounds.”

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Time can be a great healer in most situations. However, saying this to a grieving individual can translate as patronizing, as if that person needs assistance in their grief. In fact, these words can unintentionally invalidate the grieving person’s emotions and minimize their pain.

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