How to Avoid Saying Something Stupid

I Know Just How You Feel Because… 

Clichés, empty platitudes, and things that don’t really help people who are grieving are the subjects of this article. I suspect that since you have read this far that you, like me, have said something to someone in the past that has not helped at all. Maybe it even hurt. You realize that we just can’t “un-say” something that we have said, no matter how much it hurts.

I took a survey a few years ago, so, mingled in with some of the things that I have said wrong, are some of the things that grieving people have shared with me that have not helped, even hurt at times. I should also add here that we are all individuals and what helps me might not help you and vice versa. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint, and your friend has do whatever they need to do as they wade through the grieving process.

I asked a group of people, all ladies who were recovering from the grief of losing their husbands. 

Here are some of the things they said helps.

  • “It makes me feel good when people say, ‘We miss him too.’”
  • “It helps when people bring up something personal about him, like… ‘I remember the jokes he used to tell.’”
  • “It helps when people remind me of good things that he did for them.”
  • “Crying is okay…it doesn’t make me feel worse…sometimes it seems to help.”
  • “It helps to talk about my grief, but I need a safe place to do that. By safe I mean someone who won’t be judgmental, or tell me, ‘don’t cry’ or ‘get over it and move on.’”
  • “It would help if you invited me out to eat, or over to your house, or just to go for a drive. Going out alone is very hard…I don’t like to eat alone. Restaurants just don’t have ‘tables for one.’ The person I enjoyed dining with is gone. I feel at loose ends.”
  • “Hugs from people I know are good.”
  • “It helps to talk, but I’m afraid I’m not very good at ‘small talk’ right now.”
  • “Staying busy seems to help.”
  • “Being around people who don’t complain helps.”
  • “Staying away from funerals for a while helps.”
  • “Friends who just hang around helps.”

 And here are some things that they say hurt:

  • “I know just how you feel because I lost…” (Oh no you don’t! Unless you are me you really don’t know how I feel!)
  • “You have to be strong.” (No, I don’t.  The word ‘survival’ comes up a lot…’strong’ doesn’t.)
  • “Don’t avoid me.” (I’ve not become invisible, and I don’t have a contagious disease.)
  • “How are you doing?” (I know that you are trying to be helpful when you ask,  but if you don’t REALLY want to know…don’t ask.)

Some empty platitudes hurt…things like:

  • I know how you feel.
  • He’s in a better place.
  • He’s not hurting anymore.
  • He left you a good home.

(Note: I might say some of these things, and it’s okay to agree with me. Hearing that from you sounds like you’re trying to deny my right to grieve.)

Cliches that might hurt:      

“Big boys don’t cry.”


“You have to be strong for the children.”

“Time will heal.”

“Life goes on.”


“It’s a blessing he’s no longer suffering.”


“It was God’s will.”


“God never gives us more than we can handle.”

“I know just how you feel because…?"

"Let me know if I can do anything."

Better alternatives:

“Don’t be afraid to cry.”

“Go ahead and cry, men cry sometimes too.”

“Why not share your feelings with them?”

“You must feel like the pain will never end.”

“Life has dealt you a terrible blow. I know it will be hard for you in the months to come to live with this pain.”

“I am sorry that this happened and that your loved one had to suffer so much.”

“Some things are tragic and will never make sense.”

“You don’t have to do this alone, I’ll be here beside you."

“I cannot begin to know how you feel. I’m not you and this has not happened to me. I want you to know that I love you and hurt with you."

“I will call in a few days, so if there is anything you need, please let me know.