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When someone you know has lost a loved one, it can be hard to know what to say. You want to offer comfort but may find yourself at a loss for words. It’s good to let the person know that you care, and even better to offer to help with something practical. There are certain things, however, that you should never say to someone who is grieving.

  • Don’t say anything judgmental. “You need to move on”, “Don’t let the children see your sadness”, “He brought it on himself”, or “You need to be strong” may be well-intentioned, but they’re not helpful.
  • Don’t say anything dismissive. When you say “I know how you feel”, “At least he lived a long life” or “It could be worse”, you are implying that the person’s pain is neither unique nor important. Even if that’s not what you mean, that’s how it will probably make the other person feel.
  • Don’t say anything trite. “He’s in a better place”, “God needed another angel”, “God never gives us more than we can handle”, “Everything happens for a reason” and similar platitudes are not helpful, and may not actually even be true.
  • Don’t say anything that diminishes the importance of the loss. “You’re young, you can remarry”, “At least you have other children”, “You can have another baby” or “At least the other twin lived” are all examples of statements that are dismissive of the person’s pain. A loved one is not a replaceable commodity, so it’s hurtful to imply otherwise.

So now that you know what not to say, how can you determine what you should say? Start with “I’m so sorry for your loss”, and then try these on for size:

  • I wish I had the right words to say, but I want you to know that I care.
  • I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I am here.
  • I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.
  • Please let me take you out for coffee/dinner/a walk.
  • I’m a phone call away when you need me.
  • I’m bringing dinner over.
  • Let me run that errand/do your laundry/drive carpool for the next month.
  • Please tell me about your loved one.

The Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of San Jose is committed to providing a sacred place, where you and your family can remember loved ones in a peaceful and hope-filled setting. If you have questions, we’re happy to answer them. We have three locations: Calvary Catholic Cemetery in San Jose, Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Los Altos, and St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Milpitas. For more information, contact us through our website, or call Calvary at 833-428-0379, Gate of Heaven at 833-304-0763, or St. John the Baptist at 833-428-0379.

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