These Are the Words to Avoid When Someone Is Grieving

The topic of grief is difficult for everyone.

Whether you're the one dealing with a loss or you're helping someone else through a loss, it's an obviously touchy subject.


(via Shutterstock)

"Sitting with someone during a time of grief is challenging because most people are uncomfortable with the idea of death, making conversations and word choices difficult," UCLA's Dr. Nicole Hisaka tells Sweety High. "Because grief typically tends to be a very vulnerable process, being sensitive with verbiage is important. Despite our curiosities, it's better to support, rather than question. Specific questions such as who, why, and how may be challenging for the person who is grieving to recount, especially if the passing was recent."

That's not to say these questions won't be okay to ask down the line—but in the beginning stages of grief, it's important to be mindful of your words.

"The more the person who is grieving has accepted the loss, these questions typically become easier to answer and may be more appropriate to use," Dr. Hisaka explains. "Additionally, using certain terms that represent definitive meanings such as 'death,' 'deceased,' 'dying,' 'dead' or 'never coming back' can be triggering to those grieving, as the terms provide a reality, especially during the beginning of the grieving process."

Ultimately, acting from a place of empathy is the most useful route to take.

"Terms or phrases that remain most neutral tend to be ones that don't require an immediate response, such as, 'I can't imagine what you might be going through, and 'I'm here whenever you want to talk or just sit with company,'" Dr. Hisaka says. "Being neutral, sensitive and less specific may also fare better than being direct. Using words such as 'passed,' 'loss,' 'resting' or 'in a better place' are not specific and allow the griever to decide how they want to interpret or define their grieving process for themselves, while also providing a sense of peace."

Shutterstock: Woman consoling a crying friend

(via Shutterstock)

While it's easy to feel helpless when someone you know is coping with a death, no one's expecting you to magically fix anything. Being supportive is all you can do.

"You can't go wrong with being your genuine self and answering from your heart," Dr. Hisaka says. "Most people who are experiencing grief and loss aren't looking for solutions, they're looking for support. Sometimes that simply means just that. Sitting and listening to their feelings during these moments may go farther than offering solutions to a loss that cannot be regained."


Want more insight into what your friend is going through? THESE are the five stages of the grieving process.