Language to Use – or not to Use – Around Someone Who Just Lost a Loved One

If you have ever experienced the loss of a loved one, you understand the difficulty in returning to “normal life.” Your friends and family may not know how to act around you. They might tiptoe around the topic of death and avoid mentioning your loved one’s name.

Or maybe you have had a friend or family member who has recently lost a loved one. You might be afraid of saying the wrong thing or offending them. If you have never experienced loss yourself, you could be worried that you will come off as insensitive or rude.

Over six generations of serving the Indiana community, our caring staff here at St. Pierre Family Funeral and Cremation Services has been there to support many families during difficult times and want to offer our advice. If one of your friends has recently lost a loved one, you might be looking for the right things to say – or what to avoid saying. Here are a few suggestions for language to use around someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one:

Phrases To Consider Avoiding

  1. “I know how you feel right now.”
    This statement usually comes from a place of sympathy, but often invalidates the feelings of the person who is grieving. No two experiences are the same. Instead, try saying,“I can only imagine how you feel right now,” and offer your friend your sympathy without comparing your situations.
  2. “Let me know if I can help you.”
    This is also usually meant with good intentions. However, when someone has just lost a loved one, the grief can be so overwhelming that it feels impossible to ask for help.
    Instead, try suggesting a specific task that you could help your friend with, such as bringing over dinner on a certain day each week or offering to mow the lawn.
  3. “At least…”
    Try to avoid starting sentences with “At least,” such as “At least he lived a long life,” or “At least she isn’t suffering anymore.” This suggests that your friend’s grief is invalid or that they should be thankful their situation isn’t more tragic or severe.
  4. “You should…”
    Avoid telling someone who is grieving how they should be acting or what they should be doing. There is no correct way to grieve and suggesting otherwise may make your friend feel like they are doing something wrong.

Other Tips

  1. Ask them how they are doing. Talking about your emotions is one of the most effective ways to deal with grief. Encourage your friend to share how they are feeling today.
  2. Share your favorite memory about the loved one. If your friend is okay with it, talk about what you loved most about the person who has died. Tell funny stories and share memories together.
  3. Meet your friend where they are. If your friend doesn’t feel comfortable discussing their loss, don’t bring it up. If your friend wants to talk about their loss nonstop, be there to listen. If your friend hasn’t cried yet, don’t judge them for how they are showing their emotions.

Ultimately, every person’s experience with grief will be unique to them. There is no timetable. The best way to comfort a grieving friend is to offer support in whatever way is most helpful to them. And remember, we are always here to help. Feel free to reach out for further support or assistance, even long after the funeral has passed. It is our honor to serve the families of the Indiana community however we can.