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What to say to someone who is grieving WYG


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I’ll probably undermine your confidence in this article when I tell you; I’m not sure how to write about this topic. Though I have plenty to say in response to the question of what to say to someone who is grieving, I’m conflicted about the best guidance.

On the one hand, I know there are no “right” or “perfect” words to say to someone who’s grieving. Many who’ve been through grief will tell you; it’s often not about what you say but what you do. And many times, the best thing you can do is shut up and listen. Knowing this, I’m wary of getting caught up in a discussion about finding the right words when I know the “right words” don’t exist.

On the other hand – words matter. You know how the old saying goes – Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will cut me to my core and live rent-free inside my head for years to come. Maybe I have that wrong; I’ll Google it later.

Anyway – when it comes to grief support, words can heal and connect, but they can also create barriers and hurt. This is true because anxieties about not having the right words sometimes prevent people from offering their support at all. And because, like it or not, off-putting, inappropriate, or offensive comments can occasionally create conflict and separation.

So, I don’t think we can ignore the question of what to say to someone who’s grieving. To the extent that we can help people feel more confident in their ability to support their friends and family, and potentially not say something hurtful or minimizing, we should.

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