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This Is How Bereaved People Really Feel about Cliches and Platitudes


Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Mar 30, 2017

This Is How Bereaved People Really Feel about Cliches and Platitudes

We all know the handful of platitudes, cliches, and words of comfort traditionally used to “comfort” the grieving. These phrases are often so empty that they bring no comfort or warmth at all, however. Even worse, they can actually hurt the person you're trying to help. Although the intention is pure and your heart is in the right place, you should always look deeper and say something you genuinely mean when you're stepping in to soothe a grieving loved one. Otherwise, you shouldn't say anything at all because you never know if you're doing more harm than good.

When You Suggest They Were at All Prepared

In cases where the death is expected, it's not uncommon to comfort the survivors by saying that it's good they were able to prepare themselves for what was coming. “At least you knew what to expect,” you say, never realizing how much it hurts. In response, the bereaved vehemently disagrees on the grounds that it's impossible to expect how a loss like this feels, and besides, knowing that a death is inevitable doesn't make it hurt any less.

When You Talk about Suffering

“Thank God s/he didn't have to suffer” is a commonly used phrase of comfort. On the surface, it seems benign, even thoughtful. It's true, after all. Anytime death occurs, it's always a blessing if the deceased doesn't suffer. However, the living still suffer. The survivor standing in front of you is suffering. You can see it. Focus on that.

When You Say There's a Reason

No one should ever say that “everything happens for a reason” to anyone who just lost someone. Strike it from your vocabulary. That has no purpose, it isn't at all comforting, and it makes the bereaved think that there's a reason for this devastating loss, this unspeakable misery.

When You Tell Them the Departed Is in a Better Place

Do you know what a mourner hears when you say this? That somehow, the person who they loved so much is in a place that's better than being here, with the people who need her or him. That's not how you mean it, but it comes off so poorly, why not retire it from your repertoire?

You should always think about how your words affect the bereaved. Mourn the loss of the person who died, but remember that the survivors need to be taken care of now, as well.