What NOT to Say After a Loss [and What You Can Say Instead]

Even when our words are well-intentioned, the wrong words can often make a heartbreaking situation much worse.

woman covering her mouth with her hands

It’s important to understand that there are things we should never say to someone after the loss of a loved one. Although most people know this already, you would be surprised what even the most self-aware person will say when they don’t know what else to say. Even when our words are well-intentioned, they can often make a heartbreaking situation much worse. Here are a few examples of things we shouldn’t say:

  • “She wouldn’t want you to be sad.”
    Since the person is sad, saying this may make them feel like they are disappointing their deceased friend.
  • “This will make you stronger.”
    Saying this implies that they are weak.
  • “He is in a better place.”
    This can be confusing and hurtful because the person wants the person to be with them.
  • “I know how you feel.”
    This communicates that you don’t need to hear what they have to say.
  • “God needed your friend.”
    Saying this implies that they didn’t need her enough.


Statements like this send the often unintentional but extremely hurtful message: “Stop feeling so bad.” It is impossible to tell anyone how to feel. These statements minimize and ignore the feelings of the grieving person who has been touched by a death.

There are many ways we can minimize someone’s feelings, but the biggest piece of advice I can give on this hurtful approach is this: when speaking to a grieving person, never start a sentence with “at least.” “At least they don’t have to suffer anymore.” “At least they are in a better place.” “At least you still have the rest of your family.” None of these statements are helpful.

Turn Unhelpful Words into Helpful Words

  • I know how you feel. → I can only imagine how hard this must be.
  • I know what that’s like. → Do you mind telling me what it’s like?
  • It’s time to put this behind you. → This might take time.
  • It could be worse. → You have a lot on your plate.
  • Keep the faith. → I’m thinking of you every day.
  • It happened for the best. → I’m so sorry this happened.


This list could be endless. The lesson is to stop and imagine what the person needs to hear from you, not what you feel you “need” to say. We cannot and should not try to fix the tragedy. Although we wish these things would never happen, when properly handled, the incident can become a growth experience instead of just a tragic experience.

To help demonstrate that everyone grieves in their own unique way we are offering a FREE Grief is Like a Snowflake Craftivity. This fun craft requires minimal set up and supplies and is a great visual that teaches we all grieve differently.

Written by Dave Opalewski.

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