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7 Things to Say (and Not Say) to a Grieving Person

7 Things to Say (and Not Say) to a Grieving Person

Your friend’s father just died and you’re in a panic.

young woman grieving

    “What should I say? What if I say something wrong?”

    Hey, it’s really not your fault our society is so death-and-grief-phobic. No one ever taught you how to be with someone who is grieving. Here are seven things not to say, along with better ways of saying them.

    1. Not: “He’s in a better place” or “Just be happy he’s not in pain anymore.”

    The place she wants him to be is with her, no matter how much pain he was in or how difficult the care-giving was.

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    Better: “You must miss him terribly.”

    2. Not: “You’ll get married again” or “You can always have other children” or “At least you have your other children.”

    But the person he really wants back and is grieving for isn’t here and he will not ever be able to replace her. Honor that.

    Better: “I know how special she was to you and how much you loved her.”

    3. Not: “It’s time for you to get yourself together.”

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    Each person’s path of grief is unique. Maybe it isn’t time for her to get herself “together” yet. Even if she is not functioning well enough to take care of herself or her family, it may be best to get friends and loved ones to pitch in to take care of the family for awhile rather than shaming her or having her feel that she’s “not handling this better.”

    Better: “It looks like this is a rough day for you. How about if I bring some dinner over about six?”

    4. Not: “I’m sure it will all be better soon.”

    Ouch! It’s so hard to watch a friend or family member grieve… we often want him to feel better so we’ll feel better! Remember, he may be thinking he’ll never feel better so presuming how he is going to feel in the future may be very frustrating for him.

    Better: “I’ll be here for as long as you need me.”

    5. Not: “God’s plans are always the best. It must have been what He intended.”

    This has the possibility of creating anger toward God or a higher power in the grieving person. Also, it’s very important to know the person’s belief system before mentioning anything about God or a higher power. Don’t assume the person has the same faith or belief that you do.

    Better: “I’m so sorry.”

    6. Not: “Don’t cry in front of the children.”

    Kids are often more upset by what they don’t know than what they do know, so many times it’s appropriate to model normal grief for the children.

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    Better: “How are the kids doing with this?”

    7. Not: Saying nothing at all.

    This is actually one of the worst things that can happen to a grieving person: having people ignore his pain. If you’re not sure what to say, or are uncertain that the person wants to talk about it, it’s okay to say just that.

    Better: “I’m not sure what to say but I want you to know I’m here for you” and/or “Do you feel like talking about her death right now?”

    The best thing to remember when being with a grieving person is just that: be with her. Sometimes you don’t even need to talk. She just wants to know that you are okay to sit with her in her pain.

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    But in case you’ve been worried about what to say while you’re sitting with her, I hope these ideas have been helpful.

    For more, check out my article on grieving, But I Don’t Know What to Say . . . how to talk with a person in grief.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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