This is the universal phrase we often say and hear when someone dies. It shows you care and opens the door for dialogue. As the griever, you can simply say, “Thank You, I appreciate that.” OR you may like to start a conversation about the person you are missing with all your heart. There are many blogs and articles written about this phrase. We keep trying to come up with something different/better, yet this says it all. It’s not lame, it’s heartfelt and empathetic.
I recently experienced deep grief when someone I love dearly died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. I felt my grief was acknowledged when friends said, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I know how much she meant to you.” Everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s personal, it’s hard, it’s exhausting and how can there be this many tears? The saying, “Where there is deep love, there is deep grief” is so very true.
There really are no perfect words to say, just listening to the person who is grieving brings some comfort to their broken heart. Something that really shocked me and left me speechless were things people said that made no sense. I was too numb with grief to respond how I would have liked to. Here is what was said and here is what was going through my head, but didn’t say out loud.
“It’s been ten days, you’re over it now, right?” Are you flippin’ kidding me? This is not something to get over – it’s something one goes through and it takes time. Gimme a break! We live in an “instant society”, like snap your fingers and you’re not sad anymore. That’s crazy! People have a hard time talking about death and watching someone grieve.
“I know you’ve been going through some sorrow, but have you been doing anything fun?” Say what?? Do you see my bloodshot eyes and how exhausted I am? I just spent 5 days helping her family move all her belongings out of her apartment. That was emotionally and physically exhausting for everyone. After that, we attended her two funerals. I want the world to stop. My friend died and I am too sad for words.
“Well, the good thing is she didn’t suffer.” Excuse me? Have you ever seen anyone have a heart attack? They can’t breathe, it hurts, it’s horrible!
“You should hop on a plane and get away.” Hmmmm. Who are you? Do you know me? I can think of nothing more stressful. No thank you. Distraction is not how I deal with anything. For you, this may be a splendid idea! Everyone grieves differently, so let’s acknowledge and respect that.
“I remember when my fill-in-the-blank died and blah, blah, blah.” Please! I can’t handle any more grief on top of mine. Don’t tell me about your grief. This is not helpful. This isn’t about you, it’s about me and my grief. No two people grieve alike and no two deaths are alike.
In each of these instances, the simple phrase, “I’m sorry for your loss” would have sufficed and been much better.
Two books I highly recommend: “What Grieving People Wish You Knew” about what really helps (and what really hurts) by Nancy Guthrie and “The Art of Comforting” what to say and do for people in distress by Val Walker.
Anita Larson is a Ceremony Leader and Officiant who blogs about her experiences with Celebrations of Life. Providing uncommon ideas and encouraging her readers to "Think Outside the Coffin®" when planning a Fabulous Farewell.