A friend, let’s call her Jan, once told us that, at her husband’s visitation, her sister asked her when she thought she’d start dating again. Jan’s husband hadn’t even been buried, and her sister wondered aloud when she was gonna get back out in the dating pool.
When someone dies, people say really dumb stuff.
Generally, they don’t mean any harm and probably think they’re being helpful, often they simply don’t know what to say and just talk to fill the emotionally burdensome silence. People don’t know just exactly how to help you grieve, so they wing it, sometimes with spectacularly offensive results.
This chasm between what someone thinks is helpful for you and what is actually helpful for you is caused by the unique nature of the individual grief experience. Your grief is one of a kind because your personality and coping methods are, and your relationship with the person who died was like no one else’s. So, what seems comforting and useful to one person can be harsh and offensive to another.
Even siblings can have vastly different grief experiences and coping mechanisms, so imagine the difference between what brings comfort to you and what brings comfort to friends, work colleagues, acquaintances, or other people trying to support you. They often don’t know where to begin so they fall back on terrible clichés.
Death is a tough topic to address and while you’re doing your best to navigate your way through this uncharted territory, so are the people trying to support you. So yeah, they’re gonna say some stupid stuff, but they probably don’t mean to.
Here’s some dumb stuff you might prepare for well-intentioned people to say:
He’s in a better place.
This too shall pass.
At least you have other children.
At least you’re young enough to have more children.
When are you going to start dating again?
I know how you feel.
Well, when my mom died…
Keep a stiff upper lip./Be strong.
A child dying before their parent is so unnatural.
God has a plan.
It’s not as bad as losing a child.
This isn’t fair.
He wasn’t even your husband anymore.
She had a long life.
It was just a dog.
He would want you to be happy.
God never gives you more than you can handle.
You’re young enough to remarry.
God needed another angel.
What has someone said to you?