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I’m a grief expert and these are 7 things you should never say after someone dies


Supporting a grieving friend or loved one comes with many challenges, with many people struggling to know what to say or how to act in the presence of someone who has suffered a devastating loss.

Now a grief expert has revealed the best ways to navigate a conversation with a grieving person so they feel supported and you don’t end up shutting down because you don’t know what to say, which will only make the situation worse.

Lianna Champ has over 40 years of experience as a specialist in bereavement and funeral care and is the author of the practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ.

She told FEMAIL: “Please don’t ignore someone who is grieving just because you don’t know what to say.”

“It’s okay to say you don’t know what to say, but let them know you’re present, compassionate, and ready to listen.”

It’s hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving, but ignoring their loss will make them feel more alone, an expert has revealed (stock image)

“Grieving people don’t always know what they need and may struggle with their words, but they need to know they are not alone.”

Lianna added that it’s helpful to remember that you often don’t need to say much, just give the other person a chance to talk.

“Try to be there in body, mind and spirit with an open heart,” she said. “If you find your mind wandering, just follow their words in your head.

“When someone who is grieving talks about how their grief makes them feel, they’re not having a conversation, they’re making a statement. Thank them for sharing and let them know your ears will be waiting for them.

Here, Lianna reveals the seven things people often say to bereaved people, but which can downplay their feelings or evoke other negative emotions such as guilt.

Lianna Champ has over 40 years of experience as a bereavement and funeral care specialist and is the author of the practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ

Lianna Champ has over 40 years of experience as a bereavement and funeral care specialist and is the author of the practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ

1. “I know how you feel”

You don’t. It’s one of the worst things you can say and it can cause the grieving person to put up a barrier. Every relationship we have is totally unique, which means every grief experience we have is totally unique.

Even though we share similar emotions to others, no two people will experience the same loss in the same way. Therefore, saying that you know how they feel is talking about you rather than them.

It also downplays the grieving person’s feelings and can bring them into conflict, especially if their feelings don’t match yours – which they won’t.

2. ‘Let me know if you need anything?’

They won’t. Instead, try to put your words into action in a gentle way… “I’d like to cook you a meal. Is Monday okay? or ‘I’m shopping on Saturday, what can I get you?’. These practical offerings are wonderful for a bereaved person. Also offer specific times for practical help – dog walking, odd jobs, etc. It can say so much more than words and can relieve the pressure of worrying about saying the wrong thing. The grieving person feels supported and you feel useful.

3. “Time is the greatest healer”

This is not the case. If we don’t acknowledge our grief and work through it, all we do is learn to live with it in time. This is why we all know people who are still crying years after their loss. We never recover from a loss, but we can learn to live with it and find happiness again, but there are steps we have to take and things we have to do.

4. “At least they’re not in pain anymore”

When a person dies of a long-term illness, it may be true that their suffering is over, but the grief of the mourner has only just begun. It doesn’t matter if you had a very similar loss. You may remember how you felt after your loss, but that doesn’t mean you have any idea what’s going on inside that grieving person. Their feelings are based on their personal relationship, which is unique.

The grieving person feels that they shouldn’t be sad because the person is no longer in pain. When mourners hear people say this, although technically correct, it minimizes their sadness and because the suffering is over, listening to these words can make them feel guilty for their grief.

5. “You have to be strong”

Grieving people don’t need to be anything, they just need to be honest about how they feel. By creating space for them to share their feelings without comment or comparison, it will naturally give the grieving person strength when they need it.

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This statement only serves to say that how they feel is not important and that they should hide their pain and show everyone how well they are. Here is an example: When a man’s wife dies, people often suggest that he be strong for their children. Children learn by watching their parents, so children learn that when they are sad they should also hide their feelings.

6. “They’re in a better place now”

This is based on our own beliefs and we cannot know what anyone thinks of an afterlife. This de-emphasizes the feelings of the bereaved and again suggests that they should instantly feel better that their loved one has become, “is in a better place”. Although it is meant to bring comfort, it can stir up unwanted feelings in the bereaved.

7. “Don’t feel bad, be grateful for the time you spent together”

Grieving people cannot help but feel sad because grief is the normal, instinctive and natural reaction that follows any loss. A grieving person may be grateful for the time shared with their deceased loved one and feel sad at the same time.

These emotions are not mutually exclusive. This statement suggests that they cannot feel both at the same time. You’re basically saying that if you’re feeling sad, you’re not grateful for the time they spent together.

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