1. “Everything happens for a reason.”
I understand this statement comes from a loving place, as do most things said to a grieving person, but please understand this isn’t always a comfort. It might be to some. I won’t deny this is a very popular concept and if it provides you some peace, that’s fantastic. But in the immediate aftermath of loss, this isn’t always something that feels good to hear. They might not want to believe everything happens for a reason. Because maybe it does. But what if it doesn’t? People die. We all know that. But it doesn’t ease the ache. Logic doesn’t have a place when mourning. A more productive thing to say is just that you care about them. Your heart is with them. Let them figure out how to feel. If they want to be mad, they deserve to be mad. If they want to question and feel like the universe isn’t fair, let them have that. You cannot know how they feel unless you are them. Remember that.
2. “She’s/he’s in a better place.”
First, this assumes the person you are speaking to follows a faith that believes in an afterlife. If you do and this is a comfort, again, that’s wonderful. But not everybody does. And frankly, even if this is something you believe in, there’s a feeling of “how can it be a better place if it’s not with me?” Call it selfish, but when my dad died and people said, “At least he’s not in pain anymore,” I thought, maybe. But he’s not here. He’s not with me. I can’t hug him or talk to him about the weird thing my teacher said. It doesn’t feel like a better place if I’m not there with him.
3. “It will get better in time.”
Time does not heal all wounds. Time teaches us how to move forward. Time gives us the space to reflect, to remember, to figure out the best way for us to survive. But the pain doesn’t evaporate. It might come in small moments they aren’t expecting. It might hit them 10 years down the road and it feels like a brand new cut. So no, it doesn’t get better in time. Losing a loved one to death isn’t like that guy or girl you were super into not texting you back. You don’t forget about it. No matter how many years pass.
4. “Be strong right now.”
The societal pressure to be strong in the face of tragedy can often do the reverse and make someone feel even more alone and isolated. The idea of strength has become such a cliche, and saying this reinforces that. They can be strong and cry in bed. They will do whatever they need. And remind them they are loved and if you can ever help, you will. But don’t put this unneeded pressure of strength on them.
5. “It was his/her time to go.”
Just. No. Don’t say that. Say, “I’m here for you.” Or maybe even be honest and say, “I’m not sure what to say. But I love you.” It’s okay to not know the perfect thing to say. Because you’re human and life is messy. But just take cues from them.
6. “This was God’s plan.”
I think, hands down, this is one of the most offensive things you can say to someone. Because even if it were true, how can death of this wonderful person in your life fill some greater purpose? Unless they died saving like, a bus full of children, I can’t see how that’s true. It just hurts. Don’t say this. Please.