32 ways to be insensitive to someone grieving

Grief, death, loss and mourning are topics kept well under the carpet. So, when someone comes across someone in pain, they can say the wrong thing.

The experiences of insensitivity far outweighs a loving and compassionate reason. I asked people to share the insensitive comments they received. These were actually said and they were experienced by more than one person. These are the top 32 from 325 comments.

Please read how not to do it and at the end, there are some suggestions of what to say. The list is not in any order.

  1. You’ll get over it – People may never get over it or even want to. Grief is the flip side of love. The deeper you love the deeper the grief.
  2. You must be relieved – this has been said to people who are grieving the loss of a parent or child who has been disabled or had a terminal illness. Here’s a further quote showing insensitivity: “ it’s harder for me than it was for your Mum because my son is normal. It’s not like your Mum had a relationship with her disbaled daughter.”
  3. Telling people to ‘stop carrying’ a week after the person they were close too died.
  4. ‘There’s no point being upset, it was all bound to happen at some point.’ 
  5. Said to the partner of someone dying from a heart attack, ‘he said you broke his heart and you really did.’
  6. ‘Your backup option for a husband has now gone.’
  7. ‘You must be relieved that [the person’s name] is dead now.’
  8. You’re so lucky…..’ – this is a popular one when the person grieving has a windfall from the estate.
  9. ‘Well, at least you can have another baby.’ – this is also a popular statement said to women having jus t lost a baby. It seems to be used mostly by health care professionals.
  10. ‘You should have known better to have a baby later in life.’ Really?
  11. ‘At least you know you can get pregnant,’ said to women after they have miscarried.
  12. An onlooker commented to a couple splitting up, ‘you seem like a very nice couple, I don’t know why you are separating.’
  13. Said by the driver who had just killed this person’s dog when she turned up at the house to exchange details, ‘well, at least you have other dogs.’
  14. Go on a dating site now to find someone who will marry you now.’
  15. After one week of grieving her father, she was told ‘that is long enough.’
  16. You look like you’ve lost weight. Grief suits you.’
  17. ‘I was waiting for her to hurry up and die,’ said by a son about his mother.
  18. ‘Your gran would be so disappointed in you. She’ll be turning in her grave over the fact you can’t come back for the funeral.’ Said by a mother to her grown up daughter.
  19. A father died just before Father’s Day, the offspring received a text saying, ‘well, it won’t be expensive now.’
  20. ‘It was for the best as she must have been a burden to you.’
  21. ‘Could you please cry silently or leave the room.’
  22. Don’t worry everything happens for a reason. You’ll have another baby. (A week after my sons funeral).
  23. Her Dad died 6 weeks before the wedding, she was told “at least you still have your Mum to walk you down the aisle.’
  24. After years of failed IVF treatments, this woman was mourning the loss of all the untaken embryos. She was repeatedly told ‘ just relax, it will happen when you least expect it.’
  25. You and I know your father is in a better place now.’
  26. ‘It doesn’t matter because your [relative] was old.’
  27. Her brother committed suicide, she’s been repeatedly asked whether there was any warning. As if that may have made a difference.
  28. Oh! You believe in reincarnation, so it’s so bad for you.’
  29. Asking ‘What happened?’ And ‘how did they die?’ Is particularly challenging for someone mourning.
  30. It’s really time you got over this’ said in relation to marriage breakdown.
  31. If your other children hadn’t died, you wouldn’t have this son now.’
  32. ‘It’s not like you are the only person to ever have lost a father.’

 

Things to say:

There are two camps with this. From people researched only 50% find someone saying ‘I am sorry for your loss’ helpful.

‘I am so sorry. My heart is broken for you.’
Or
‘I cannot imagine what you are going through.’

I know it’s easy to blurt something out when you feel uncomfortable. Remember the other person is in huge pain. Even saying, ‘I don’t know what to say’ is better than being insensitive.

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