10 Things Not to Say to a Grieving Friend

10 Things Not to Say to a Grieving Friend


I recently spent the day with dear friends who, like my wife and I, have lost a child. The conversation gravitated to the pain we had experienced, the goodness of God and recovery. But part of the most poignant comments centered around the painful things that people have said to us following the crisis. Some people are well-intentioned, some don’t know any better and some are simply cruel. Regardless of their motives, few people actually know what to say to a grieving person, especially one who has lost a child.

So, while this may seem obvious to some, others need some basic advice. These are things you should not say to someone who has lost a loved one: Yes, I heard all of the things listed below:

Get over it. It’s time to move on and get your life back to normal.

Don’t worry, God will give you another child to replace the one you lost. You could always adopt.

If you had possessed more faith, God would have healed your child.

There must have been hidden sin in your life.

I know what you’re feeling; I lost my grandma, or my cousin, or my dog.

God must have been sparing your child from something worse to come later in life.

God took your child in order to make you a more compassionate person.

You should have prayed harder.

You should have taken your child to a miracle healer.

The reason that all of the above are inappropriate to say to a grieving person is, they are untrue and hurtful. Any attempt to minimize the pain, explain the reason for the loss or make the person feel better is out of place and unappreciated. My experience is, most people who want to fix my pain are trying to play God. They want to understand it all and explain it away. This is ludicrous. These efforts usually resulted in more pain.

So what can you say to a person who is mourning the loss of a child or a loved one?

If you must speak, just say, “I love you” or “I am sorry for your loss” or “I am praying for you.” Many times, it is better to say nothing. Just a hug or a smile will suffice.

When I was standing at the casket of my daughter, a causal acquaintance came up, patted me on the shoulder and handed me a small scrap of paper. On it were the words, Deuteronomy 29:29. This is a Biblical reference that says, “The secret things belong to the Lord.” Those words spoke volumes to me. This was one of those things that only God understood. I am OK with that.

These things belong to God. He understands. Let Him take care of it.

Our Crucible


Crucible: (dictionary.com)

1) a container of metal or refractory material employed for heating substances to high temperatures.

2) a hollow area at the bottom of a furnace in which the metal collects.

3) a severe, searching test or trial.

Everyone has their cross to bear. My “cross” is the death of our child. On October 25, 1990, our world changed forever when our 4 year-old Jenna Nicole went to heaven after a battle with neuroblastoma, a rare but fatal form of childhood cancer. In the words of a friend who had lost his son 10 months earlier in a fire, “welcome to the fraternity that no one wants to join”.

This is my testing by fire, my crucible. This crucible shapes me and defines who I am as a man. It influences my opinions on most topics and creates passions in me that are otherwise unexplainable. Every day of my life is impacted by my crucible.

Another friend says that we passed the ultimate test. According to him, our test was a proving ground. I am not so sure that I have passed this test but I am in the process of passing it each day.  The test is in holding my head up and staying positive and helping other struggling people. My wife and I take no credit for the strength we have, it is simply a gift of God’s grace that allows for our survival. We have learned to give our grief to God; to offer it to Him so that someone else may be helped. Pain that is held inside will rot the soul.

Your crucible is your own. No one can endure it for you. It is hot, for sure. It’s not fair to compare it to the crucible of someone else – no two crucibles are the same. But in Christ, you can stand up under it and survive. You can thrive through your crucible.

I Peter 1:7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (NLT)