This is the first of a multi-part series on grief and loss. For my research I picked up a great little paperback called, Don’t Ask for the Dead Man’s Golf Clubs by Lynn Kelly. She is the founder of a local business here in Denver called Kelly Communications.
I read this book in less than an hour. It has three broad sections: What to Do Now,
What to Do Over Time, and What Not to Do. There is a also a small section on suicide, miscarriage, and stillbirth.
So for this post, I would like to focus on What to Say When a Friend is Grieving.
Many years ago, I attended the funeral for a classmate’s father. Her dad was a physician like my dad and had committed suicide. As I hugged my classmate at the funeral, I was at a loss for words, so I said, “Stay strong.” Even now – decades later – I feel awful about what I said.
Why should she stay strong? Why couldn’t a teenage girl fall apart and weep over her father’s death?
Kelly’s book offers some really great ideas about what to say:
“I’m sorry for your pain. I’m here to support you.”
“We have so many fond memories of _____. He was important to us.”
Never, never, never say, “It was God’s plan,” “God must have needed him more,” “Oh well at least you didn’t have children,” “Well at least you still have your children,” and please, please, please don’t say, “I know how you feel.” You don’t! Even if you’ve faced a similar death, you cannot compare pain and circumstances. You will only leave the person feeling worse than they already do.
If you don’t know what to say, say that: “I’m so sad and confused. I just don’t even know what to say.”
So readers, please share with us. What were some of the most painful things people said when you were grieving? Or what were some of the most helpful things they said? I asked some of my Facebook friends and this is what they said:
I heard nothing but, “He’s in a better place” I hated when people said that because all I could think was that, No, he’s not. He should be here with his family, enjoying his life and grandkids. I think the one that bothered me the most though was when people found out he died of lung cancer, there were several who had the gall to say, “Well, that’s what happens when you smoke. He should have known better, but he’s in a much better place now”
Another friend said, “For some reason when people would say ‘you are doing so well’ and I would just smile. In addition, when people would say ‘well he’s in a better place or at least you still have your mom.’ It makes them feel like being here wasn’t good enough. It was nice to hear from others that experienced loss and how they coped. Also, don’t say, ‘If you need me I’ll be there for you or I’ll pray for you,’ unless you really mean to follow through.
Later, we’ll focus on What to Do When a Friend is Grieving. To read part 2, click here
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