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When People Say the Wrong Thing
Harkey Funeral Home in Monahans, TX

Following a loss, you will find that many well-meaning people say things that are meant to be comforting but are actually very hurtful.

  • They want to establish closeness. Often people say things like "I know what you're going through" or "I know how you feel." Phrases like this can feel like the person is turning the conversation back to themselves. Or perhaps you think, "No, my situation is totally different. You have NO idea how I feel." However, people often use these statements to show support and let you know you are not alone.

  • They may be uncomfortable with grief. Unfortunately, our society does not talk much about death and grief. As a result, many people don't know what to say to someone who is grieving. Instead, they fall back on common cliches when speaking to the griever.

  • They want to comfort you. Following your loss, those who love you will want to try to help. It's not that they don't want you to grieve, they simply see you hurting and want to find a way to help you "feel better." As a result, they may say things like "At least she lived a good long life." They don’t understand that there isn't anything they can do to take away your pain. 

Here are some tips on how to handle the insensitive comments.

  • Ask yourself what the person was trying to say. In most cases, friends and family members are trying to be helpful. They do not mean to hurt you with their words.

  • Try to understand why the comment hurt. Typically, comments made by others hurt because they invalidate or trivialize your grief. In other cases, the comments may go against your own belief system.

  • Think of a response. You may not be able to respond in the moment, but you can replay the conversation and think of a response later. This may help if you hear a similar comment in the future. It can also help you to reaffirm your own grief and validate your feelings. For example, if someone says, "at least your mother is in a better place" you can respond "It doesn’t matter where she is, no matter what I will never stop missing her."

  • Trust your instincts. Everyone grieves differently. Sometimes people will say things like "it's time to move on" or that you should start getting rid of your loved one's belongings. You alone know how you should be grieving. Don’t feel like you must follow anyone else's timetable.

  • Give yourself time and space. Don’t rush into anything that doesn't feel right. While you want to make sure you don't become isolated, if you need to take some extra time to be alone, that's fine. It's OK to skip social events or leave them early if you don't feel up to attending.


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