64 of the Best Things Ever Said to a Griever

People ask us this question time and again: what should I say to someone grieving? They ask as though there is some easy answer, some checklist. I have bad news, there is no checklist. We asked WYG readers recently for the best and worst things anyone had said to them in their grief, hoping some specific examples might offer guidance. No surprise, there were some of the EXACT SAME PHRASES on both the best and worst list. Why is it so tricky? What is right for one person is all wrong for another. The timing can make all the difference, so you could just pick the wrong moment. You might be the right person to say something to one friend or family member, but the wrong person to say it to another. Eleanor made a super graphic about this over in the post of the 64 Worst Things Ever Said to a Griever, so make sure you check that out if you missed it.

In case that isn’t enough of a disclaimer, before we dive into the list of “best things” we are going to give some of our favorite tried and true quick tips to consider before opening your mouth to someone grieving. They aren’t surefire rules to make sure you say the right thing, but they are somewhere to start.

As for what the best things are to say to someone grieving, the interesting thing you’ll see is the items on this list aren’t always very specific. They are often general statements or ways of being. We think this is worth noting. Though people get caught up in the “right” words to make someone feel better, often the best things aren’t words of comfort at all (we all know those can go astray quickly, however well-intentioned!). They are an acknowledgment of pain, remembrance, and an ability to be present. So, without further ado . . .

  1. “There are no words”
  2. I will travel to you and stay with you several days
  3. You can talk to me about your mum whenever you want – in 5, 10, 30 years
  4. Your grief-reactions are normal/appropriate“.
  5. You aren’t going crazy”
  6. Tell me more about your mother
  7. Someone gave me a very sincere compliment on how I’ve handled raising my kids as a single mother a few years after my husband died. Meant the world to me to hear it. It’s a lonely journey. I needed that boost.
  8. I’m just really sorry you’ve had to go through this”. She kept her gaze into my eyes as I sobbed… It was so powerful just being “witnessed”
  9. “Your Dad was a wonderful man”.
  10. “Learn to live in acceptance of the loss, not in spite of the loss”
  11. “She’s just made a change of address”
  12. “Grief has no expiration date”
  13. “It’s okay to have bad days because it reminds you how much you love them and the good days remind you they’re right there with you”.
  14. Just talk about your son whenever you feel like”
  15. You don’t have to talk. I will just sit beside you“.
  16. My 81-year-old Father drove quite a distance to just sit with me and as he sat listening to me completely fall apart he reached over and put his arm around me and quietly said, “please know this is only temporary you will get to finish raising him one day. Then he said, I will get there before you and I will carry your messages to him“.
  17. “We’ve asked your colleagues and they have donated enough paid time off for you to take the time you need”
  18. “We were just talking about him last night”
  19. We remember him and speak of him often
  20. When you feel that she’s with you know that she really is”
  21. She is never far away”
  22. Let me know if I can help”
  23. “I’m sorry for your loss”
  24. When someone tells you they are there for you, brings you flowers or comfort food, or your best friend comes over after you’ve told her not to (because you didn’t want to be a bother) because she knows you that well – those are the types of things that make a difference.
  25. “I was really mad at God when I found out”
  26. It f#&king sucks
  27. “We won’t forget him”
  28. “He was such a special kid”
  29. “I don’t know what to say but I can listen”
  30. “He would be proud of you”
  31. “I am praying for you and will always be”
  32. “I love you”
  33. “Thank you for giving us the most beautiful, generous, loving person we’ve ever known”.
  34. “We loved her like she was one of the family”.
  35. “You’ve been a good dad to them”
  36. When my Mom passed a good friend of mine looked me in the eye and with such love and concern said “I am worried about you. I think you should consider grief therapy.” I did so because of her genuine concern and courage to say that to me at the time
  37. “One day you will be talking about Jessica and a smile will come to your face first before a tear”
  38. The best thing was from a chaplain who gave me permission to be mad as hell and instead of asking ‘why me?’ Asking ‘why not me?’
  39. My mom made me socks and a hat for my baby gone-too-soon in pregnancy. She said, “every baby deserves to be celebrated, no matter how long they are with us.”
  40. “A part of your loved one lives in you and all those he loved”
  41. “Be as kind to yourself as you are to everyone else”
  42. I received a card from a former college classmate of my husband. In the card she wrote about how proud my husband had been of me and how happy I had made him. She wrote that every time their paths crossed over the years that he always spoke so highly of me. She was in awe of how proud he was to have me as his wife.
  43. You will never get ‘over it’, but you will get through it”
  44. I can see by these pictures how much you loved each other. She must have known every day she was loved”.
  45. “There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Your life has been changed forever”.
  46. You’re allowed to feel and be exactly as you are because this is your experience and no one else’s”.
  47. I wouldn’t be alive today if your dad hadn’t helped me get sober by giving me a reason to be sober”.
  48. The best thing is when someone says, “I remember…” and then goes on to share a memory of the person you’ve lost.
  49. “I cannot possibly understand how you feel. But I’m here”.
  50. When I told a friend my heart is broken she said “I will lend you mine til yours has mended
  51. “It’s okay not to be okay”
  52. Look for signs. He will show you he is with you” [from another grieving mom]
  53. “He/she is with you always, and is proud of you for the way you live your life”
  54. I love when someone hears a song that reminds them of him & they reach out to tell me!
  55. “Come rest a minute – let’s talk about & remember all those sweet memories. Your dad was a great man & father”.
  56. “We’ll get through this together”
  57. Now you’ve got someone up there watching out for you”
  58. “It’s okay to hurt. Don’t hold back your tears”
  59. “I have no words, this just sucks”
  60. “What the F*^k? how can this be?”
  61. He was so loved and my life is better because he was in it”.
  62. “You are a good mother and his death with never change that”
  63. “You are not moving on you are moving forward”
  64. The woman cleaning out my father’s absolutely vile condo, when I admitted how embarrassing I found the state of his living space and apologized to her said, “I don’t judge. Everyone has different priorities. He was clearly a wonderful father who was deeply loved.”

What would you add to the list of best things to say to someone grieving? Leave a comment with the best thing someone said to you in your grief or a general tip you have about how to support someone grieving. 

September 19, 2018

18 responses on "64 of the Best Things Ever Said to a Griever"

  1. When I told one of my friends I was worried about the emotion of my partner’s death making me too “blubbery” at her remembrance she said “bring it on!” It was a wonderful affirmation of her willingness to bear witness with me.

  2. My partner lost his 44 yr old daughter 3 days ago. I only met her twice and the last time was for a week. He has been divorced from the mom for many many years. He has all this pain about not being there enough, although from what I have heard he did as much as he could. He has a relationship with his daughters kids, but her x ( abusive alcoholic ) would not let him see the kids. Plus his x wife is with a man who wants to be the hero ( another alcoholic) who talks behind his back and lies. He gets along fine with the mother of their daughter but she of course has only been there watching her daughter die. I’m a counselor , nurse, and in love with this dad who is blaming himself for so much… All beyond his control. He has no $ he lost his business in 2008 . The cancer started in 2014, in fact that’s when we became friends. The mom, and son and daughter did not inform him that she then had seizures and a brain tumor that caused paralysis. They kept him out of the loop.

  3. Lost my 29 year old son to sudden cardiac arrest Sep 4th this year. I wouldn’t know what to say to someone in the same situation, and that’s what I tell people who say they don’t know what to say. Just acknowledgement and I’m sorry is enough to hear. And I understand those I come across unexpectedly in a store and they don’t acknowledge, just give me a surprised look. Usually a short how are you from both sides, fine, and go our separate ways. Those close enough know and have said things from the list. “Living forward”, always thinking about my son except when I can keep myself very busy, is extremely hard. Grief counseling is a help. Just don’t know what to do with myself “all the other time”. My husband and daughter and myself all going through our own grief in the house together. I’ve always been “the glue”, but right now just want to curl up and stay there most of the time. WE don’t even know what to say to each other.

  4. Ironically, the best comment I have ever heard comes from my nine year old niece… who simply states “I cry for Uncle Patrick because I loved him”

    Just a reminder… the simplistic outlook of a child is far more truthful and pure … than anything an adult who over analyzes trying to come up with the best one-liner to make themselves feel better and ends up saying all the wrong things !

  5. During a particularly rough time when I didn’t think I could go on, a friend said
    “please remember your record of survival to date is 100%”. That allowed me to recognize that indeed I was still going through my grief and yet it hadn’t stopped me from “living forward”. (I prefer that to “moving on”)

  6. Thanks for the amazing post,looking for more updates from you.

  7. Julia, that sounds perfect to me.

  8. I like to share the thought “Trust that someday the sun will come out again.” It acknowledges that it is dark and stormy now, but there is hope. I base it off some holocaust poetry that was uncovered in the Warsaw ghetto “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when there’s no one there.”

  9. They miss hugs, hearing ILU, compliments, watch TV & eating with another human being. So if you’re comfortable give them a hug when you see them, make plans such as every other Thursday to meet & eat, or have coffee, watch a tv show, go to movie etc…

  10. NOT to say/do:
    1. “You took my dad away from me ”
    2. “Suck it up”
    3. “Get over it” I will never get over “IT” as “it” is “him” my 53y/o husband who suffered a brain aneurysm while we were kissing. I don’t want to get over him. I am who I am today because of 33 yrs with him & I don’t want to forget a day of it!
    4. Take over/take charge, be bossy, demanding, blaming or accusing the griever while the critical crisis, funeral/ planning, are happening. They probably will not be themselves, due to being in shock, PTSD, depressed, emotional rollercoaster, terrified, u don’t know what they saw & how its affected them. They’re living out the worst nightmare of their life & there’s no waking up from it. Walking around in a fog. Don’t judge! Or gossip! Or talk about “if it was me, I’d done…, can’t believe she is so distant, I’d be crying my eyes out,” you don’t know how you’ll react until its U in a critical crisis.
    5. Don’t criticize/critique the funeral plans/service. Or their appearance!

    OKAY to say/do
    1. Any good, funny, happy, kind memories of your lost one.
    2. I received a card on the 1yr anniv of his death. It meant the world to me as everyone else has gone on with life & have forgotten about him/me.
    3. Rekindling of old school girlfriend whose divorced. [When you’re young its hard to find a new set of single, divorced women/just friends to hang with occasionally.
    4. Ask if they’ve thought about counseling. Or if in group therapy/counseling already… ask how its going.
    5. Try to at least mark your phone calendar with 1st or more anniversary of death, bday, holidays, special days that are super difficult/depressing to get thru. Call, send card/note, bring flowers/food. Just remember at least 1st death anniversary.
    6. Just come over & do helpful things. Clean, carpool kids, mow lawn. Offer to help with ALL the paperwork. They may need to look for assistance SSI, Food stamps etc. Take & fax, copy, mail for them as follow thru of such things tend to be put off.
    7. If widow, ask if there’s house, lawn, repair work needed or come buy & take a look. Arrange a rotation group to mow or check on widow.
    8. Anyone can offer to pick them up/meet & grab a bite to eat/coffee, pay for it if possible. The griever has difficulty eating meals alone, failure to eat/stay healthy as they’ve lost drive to keep going. When u cook a meal make a to go plate for widow.
    9. If you’ve experienced this pain… you know family, friends, couples, tend to part ways, avoid griever, assist with needs. If possible plan small get togethers, cookout, pizza place, & invite just 1 or 2 others.
    10. Griever probably will the 1st yr/maybe longer will have difficulty, attending large, couple, group events, holiday, parties wedding, funerals… offer to go together, carry handkerchief, tissue, stay close by, help with mingling, socializing.
    11. We had a great friend waiting at funeral home Entrance when we arrived to make final arrangements. That was extremely thoughtful & comforting. they’d had experience with funeral planning already & offered suggestions.

  11. In my bereavement group, the group is in support of those that have lost a child. One of the other mother’s said to me, “Make friends with your grief, because it will always be with you”. That is so true.

  12. “i’m Here for you and not just today but forever,’
    “ You can be as miserable as you like around me for as long as you need to be’.

  13. How about this loving comment from my brother when I said I was beside my with grief and needed his help (emotional support) after my husband died: “What’s the matter, you can’t handle it after your playmate died?” Or maybe, “What did you expect? He was so much older than you.” Or, “Gee it wasnt til after you cancelled your husband’s military ceremony internment, that I realized that you were upset about his passing!” Really? These are just some of the nice things people have said to me and no, I am not a complainer or a nasty person. People just think I am strong and have not wanted to put themselves out.

  14. When my 28 yr. old nephew died from an accidental drug overdose and his asshat father (sis’s ex) refused to help us pay our expenses (even though he had insurance on the child) my cousin who didn’t even know Josh, sent us a check for $300 and also pretty much summed up our feeling about the ex. What a great feeling to know someone was in our corner. Also, a lovely lady from our church told me, that my sister was so BRAVE for listing in our obituary for him that he died from an accidental overdose and depression. That really touched me. But, generally, people are stupid

  15. Rochelle Seaton GarciaSeptember 19, 2018 at 6:04 pmReply

    I have a few that bring me comfort:
    1. Another widow told me that you don’t ever “move on”, you “live on”.
    2. I found comfort in reading somewhere that you will always be his wife, he will always be your husband. You will always have the love he shared with you.
    3. Your loved one is not just part of your past, they are part of your future in eternity.
    4. We will walk with you thru this, we are in this together.

  16. A friend often tells me how, when she’s out fell-running (alone) in the hills, she still expects to see Stuart somewhere on the trails.

  17. A neighbor wrote me a note and said, “whatever words you long to hear that will give you comfort, consider them said.”. I thought that was the most beautiful and loving thing to say and it truly touched my heart.

  18. One of the best things someone has said was, “I’m not sure what we can do beyond acknowledging one another’s sadness and knowing we share it.” ♡

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