Situation

Instead of saying this …

… consider saying this:

The reason

Death of a loved one

“She is in a better place” or “It was God’s will.”

“I am so sorry for your loss. Please know how much I care about you and how much I am going to miss her.”

Don’t minimize a person’s grief by attempting to add a silver lining to death. It’s better to acknowledge a person’s pain and the loss he or she is experiencing.

“You’ve been sad for weeks; it’s time to move on.”

“I am here to listen if you want to talk.”

Listening is one of the best things you can do to support a person during the often lengthy grieving process.

“I know what you're going through.”

“I am here for you. Please let me know what I can do to help you.”

Don’t assume to know what a grieving person is feeling, even if you too have mourned the death of a loved one. Instead, extend a helping hand and let the person know you are there.

Miscarriage

“Don’t worry. You’ll get pregnant again or you can always adopt.”

“I am so sorry for your loss.”

Attempting to put a positive spin on things after a miscarriage can make the grieving person feel isolated and alone. It’s better to simply acknowledge theperson’s loss.

“You were only three weeks pregnant.”

“My thoughts are with you during this sad time.”

Don’t minimize the pain that results from a lost pregnancy. Even if a miscarriage happens only a few weeks after conception, the ensuing grief can be enormous.

Divorce or end of a relationship

“I never liked him anyway.”

“I am so sorry this has happened to you.”

Instead of minimizing the breakup, acknowledge the magnitude of the loss.

“But I thought you two were such a great couple.”

“Please know that I am here for you in any way that you may need.”

Rather than making the loss about you and your feelings, offer to help the grieving person in any way possible.

Loss of a pet

“It was just a cat.”

“I know how much you loved your cat. I am so sorry you lost her.”

Losing a pet is akin to losing a member of the family for many people. Acknowledging the magnitude of the loss is important.

“Why don’t you get another dog?”

“Samson was a great dog. I’m going to miss him, too.”

Be sensitive to the fact that it can take months—and even years—before a person who has lost a pet is ready to adopt a new one.

—C.M.