I don’t write a lot of “what NOT to say” posts, preferring to encourage positive words instead. But this is a topic I think warrants an entire blog post: when friends are grieving there are phrases that may seem helpful on the surface, but actually can be quite painful to the heart. Read on so you avoid these phrases and find out what simple phrases to say instead.
Last spring my friend Janna gave us wisdom on what to do when a friend loses a child. Her IGTV interview was so powerful and helped so many of us walk beside our grieving friends in a more intentional and loving way. Janna outlined some things that she recommends NOT saying to friends grieving a child. And what to say instead:
“It’s God’s will. They are in a better place. God works all things for good.”
All true, but not comforting to hear in the early stages. For a grieving mother, she feels the best place for her child to be is in her arms.
“You are so strong. I could never get through this.”
Just because this is what the Lord gave me, doesn’t mean that I have super powers. The Lord gives you the strength you need when you need it.
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
Burying a child felt like more than I could handle at that time.
“Are you sure you prayed right, or you should have prayed more.”
This leads to heartbreak, shame and guilt for the one you should be comforting. It is also not Biblical.
“Sorry. Sometimes “bad” stuff happens.”
This is crushing to a grieving parent!
“At least you can have more children.”
No one can guarantee that so don’t say it. Even if it is true, they would like to have all of their children here with them and not just some of them.
“You need to just move on and think about your future.”
I could barely think about getting out of bed let alone my future.
So often we feel the pressure (or the temptation) to say something profound, helpful or comforting to the one grieving. Remember that nothing you say is magically going to take their pain away. “I am so sorry,” and “I am praying for you,” are always safe and comforting to hear at any stage of grief. Your friend just needs you to listen and be present in their suffering.
Thank you, Janna. Watch the full interview on our IGTV with more helpful things to say to a grieving friend and share this with friends here.