Tag Archives: conversation

How to Give Comfort in Tragedy

One of the hardest things we are ever called to do is to comfort someone who is experiencing tragedy.

Following a fire truck on the way to an emergency

When tragedy strikes a loved one, we can bring comfort with the right words and actions.

Generally, we do a much better job of rallying around the bereaved after someone dies than we do supporting someone who has suffered a debilitating and permanent injury.

Secretly we’re thinking, OMG, I’m so glad I’m not you. Better you than me. At the end of this uncomfortable visit I can walk out of here and put your terrible life out of my mind for a while. And if it’s too terrible, I can move on to other friends, I’m not stuck like you.

Sometimes, standing at the side of the hospital bed, we’re tongue-tied. Or, we blurt something out only to recoil in embarrassment for having inserted a foot in our mouth. Even worse, sometimes we speak and blithely go on, happily ignorant of the fact that we have caused more pain. In all of these cases, we have just widened the gulf that now separates us, the unaffected, from the person whose not-so-bad-up-to-now life has changed forever.

Before you find yourself standing in the hospital room of a double amputee saying, “I’m sorry for your loss,” check out these seven phrases that bring comfort in a time of tragedy. Continue reading

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When Death Calls, What Do You Say?

On Monday I wrote about the 12 Thoughtless Things People Say When Someone Dies. Of course we want to know the right thing to say when someone dies, but what can sound like the right thing to us does not at all sound like the right thing to the person who is grieving the death of a loved one.

granite cemetery headstone with American flag

When we choose our words for how they are heard, we can bring comfort to those grieving a death.

Here is a quick check list to help you judge whether the words you’re about to say are likely to bring comfort, or only more sorrow. Continue reading

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12 Thoughtless Things People Say When Someone Dies

Somewhere in our upbringing many of us were taught to not talk about death, and when death happens, to not talk about our feelings of loss.

An indoor columbarium niche wall of recessed compartments holding urns.

Chances are good that by the time the memorial service ends, the family and closest friends will have heard several thoughtless comments that people say when someone dies.

 

As a logical consequence, when someone dies, we have no idea what to say. So in a well-meaning but ignorant effort to provide comfort, or out of our own discomfort with silence or with the emotional pain of the loss, we open our mouth and insert our foot.

Sadly, ignorance is endlessly creative, and so there are far more than a dozen ways to be thoughtless with our words and inflict pain instead of bringing comfort and consolation. I picked these 12 things to not say when someone dies because I think they are the most likely ones we mistakenly believe are actually helpful. Continue reading

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