It’s hard to be supportive of a friend who’s lost a loved one. This isn’t a temporary sadness. It’s going to change their life forever. You might be wondering what to say to someone who lost a loved one.
The last thing you want to do is stick your foot in your mouth.
5 Stages of Grief
To be a good supportive friend, it’s important to understand what they’re going through. While each experience with grief is different, everyone experiences the 5 stages of grief.
Denial is the first stage of grief, it’s a natural instinct to believe that the loss never happened. It helps them deal with the world when it becomes overwhelming.
People who experience this tend to feel numb and overwhelmingly sad at the same time.
Try not push a person going through this stage, they can only handle so much and denial teaches that.
It’s common to try to soothe someone’s anger, but it’s a necessary stage to cope with grief. If you can, encourage your friend to feel their anger instead of trying to get rid of it. By confronting it, the anger will start to fade.
Try not to take offense if they turn their anger towards you. They’re still processing everything that’s happened and you’re a safe person to lash out at. They could feel abandoned because of their loss, try to let them know that you’re there for them no matter what.
People will try anything to get their loved one to return. They may try to make a deal with their god to get them back.
Not only that, but they may get lost in a storm of “what ifs” and “if onlys.” This is all to get life back to the way it was before. Guilt often comes along with these what if questions, your friend may start to blame themselves for the death even if they had nothing to do with it.
Listen to their feelings and try to gently let them know it’s not their fault.
After these stages, you begin to experience life at the present moment. You start to realize your loved one is really gone and fall into a depression. It can seem to last forever and that you’ll never get out of it.
Your friend may start to withdraw from everyone and feel like they’re in a fog. The best thing you can do for your friend is to stay with them. Make sure they know you’re there for them.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that you’re okay with your loved one’s death, you will never be okay with that. Instead, it’s accepting the fact they’re gone and there’s nothing you can about it.
Slowly your friend will start to live this new reality and resume their life. They will still have their bad days, but it’s progress none the less.
You can take your friend out for a fun time to help them get adjusted. If you’re still unsure about what to say to someone who lost a loved one, try telling them that they’re not betraying their loved one by moving on.
What to Say to Someone Who Lost a Loved One
Now that you know the 5 stages, you’ll have a better idea of what to say your friend. In fact, you’ll know what to say to someone who lost a loved one anytime this sad situation happens.
- I’m sorry for your loss
- If you feel like talking, please don’t hesitate to call me.
- They brought so much joy to everyone, they’ll be missed greatly.
- I’m not sure what to say, but please know I care.
- I’ll come over on Wednesday to help with housekeeping (or some other type of chore).
- You and your family will be in my thoughts.
- Don’t say anything and give them a hug instead.
What Not to Say to Someone Who Lost a Loved One
If you are still worried about making a mistake, avoid these upsetting statements.
- Things happen for a reason.
- They are in a better place.
- Be thankful for the time you had with them.
- How are you doing?
- Your loved one wouldn’t want you to be sad.
- I know how you feel.
- It’s been a while since they passed, isn’t time to move on?
Just Be Supportive
At the core of knowing what to say to someone who is grieving is to be supportive. If you keep that in mind, then there’s little chance that you’ll say the wrong thing.
The best thing you can do for your friend is to listen to them and constantly affirm that you’re there for them.
Have patience with them as they go through the stages and just hold their hand through it.