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What to Say (and Not Say) to Someone Who’s Grieving

Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC, EMDR 

When someone in your life is grieving, you want to support them. Yet, you may not know what to say to them or you might be afraid of saying the wrong thing. Consider these tips when supporting your loved ones who are grieving.

Be Curious. Does your love one want to discuss their grieving process with you? You may not know, and that’s ok. Allow them to decide what they need in regards to your support. Here are a few phrases to be aware of:

Avoid Saying

○      “You need to talk about it.”

○      “This is how you ‘should’ grieve.”

○      “I’ll bet you’re tired of talking about it.”


○      “How are you feeling?”

○      “What’s this like for you?”

○      “Would you like to talk about it?” 

Understand their Unique Loss. Death is likely the first situation that comes to mind when someone is grieving yet there are many different losses that bring about grief. Losing a job, financial hardship, racism, the end of a relationship, illness, aging, moving, and missed opportunities are all losses. You may not consider your loved one’s loss a loss and you may feel confused as to why they are grieving. Yet, if you intend to support someone it’s important to understand that a loss is a loss and grief is grief. Here are a few phrases to keep in mind:

Avoid Saying:

○      “At least they’re still alive.”

○      “Things could be worse.”

○      “These things happen.”


○      “It sounds like this is loss.”

○      “Yes, that’s a huge loss for you.”

○      “Tell me more about what you’re going through.” 

Express Acceptance and Support. When someone is grieving it can be tempting to try to ease their pain or “fix” their grief. This can lead to statements which imply that you are minimizing their experience instead of accepting it. It’s important to provide support while also communicating acceptance. Here are a few statements to consider:

Avoid Saying:

○      “They are in a better place,” or “They are no longer in pain.”

○      “There is a reason for everything.”

○      “You need to be strong.”


○      “You have every right to feel the way that you do.”

○      “I wish I had the right words. I’m here for you.”

○      “I can’t imagine what your feeling. I’m here to listen.”

○      “Let me know if there is anything I can do. I mean it, please let me know.”

○      Saying nothing, just be present.

Check in. The grieving process can change from moment to moment. A person who’s grieving might feel ok one minute but the next minute they might feel angry or depressed. It’s important to check in with them to provide support. There is no expiration date on grief. Certain days of the year or anniversaries can recharge feelings of grief and loss. Therefore, you can check in with someone months or years after the loss occurred. Here are some phrases to keep in mind when checking in:

Avoid Saying:

o   “Are you over this yet?”

o   “It will get better in time.”

o   “It’s time to move on.”


○      “How are you feeling today?”

○      “Can I check in with you later this week?”

○      “I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten and I’m still here for you.” 

Grieving can be a devastating process. Try using these phrases when supporting your loved ones who are grieving.

Have you experienced a loss or do you need help supporting someone who is grieving? You might benefit from counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling to schedule an appointment with a Chicago therapist.

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