Make a genuine connection in a time of grief

When someone we love suffers a painful loss, we long to offer comfort and support. But sometimes we struggle to find the right words to say.

After three of her dear friends suddenly lost their husbands, our founder Kathy Davis wondered what words she could offer that would make a difference in the face of such immense grief.

“As one who makes a living helping people share words of comfort during times like these, it was important for me to better understand what may have helped my friends cope with their loss,” she says.

“My experience as a writer has taught me it’s often not how much you say, but what you don’t say that is important.”

While she knew she could turn to countless books and articles written on this topic, it was important to her to learn this knowledge in an authentic way…directly from her friends.

Here is what they shared with her about the words that didn’t bring comfort as they grieved — and those they found most meaningful.

Please DON’T:
– Don’t ask me “How are you?” I’m not OK.
– Don’t ask me what I need! I don’t know!
– Don’t say, “Call if you need anything,” because I do not want to impose. Just DO something nice for me without being asked.

Words that do NOT help:
– “I know just how you feel.”
– “Everything happens for a reason.”
– “(He’s) in a better place now.”
– “You’ll feel better with time.”
– “God works in mysterious ways.”

Please DO:
– Ask: “How are you doing this afternoon (this morning, right now…)?”
– Share a story, a recollection or memory about my loved one. Don’t be afraid that you may make me cry…or laugh!
– Add a personal note to my sympathy or thinking-of-you card. That lets me know my (loved one’s) life made a difference to you and others.
– When writing me a message, just be yourself. Simple yet genuine words let me know you care.

Words that DO help:
– “I know this is a really difficult time for you.”
– “I am here for you.”
– “I can’t even begin to imagine how you are feeling.”
– “I care.”
– “Call me whenever you may need to talk.”

Everyone’s experience with grief is different and very personal. Simply letting someone who’s suffering know they occupy a space in your heart can be incredibly meaningful.