If one more person says it they might get punched in the face…

It’s been a tragic year…and it’s only May. I lost my great niece earlier this year(SIDS), I lost my grandpa last week(old age), some people I’m becoming friends with lost one of their twin babies(preemie complications), a woman in our community lost her husband to lung cancer (never smoked a day in his life)

I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something…How sad is that? that list looks like plenty!

It will be three years since she passed on May 28th.  It doesn’t feel like 3 years, it feels like yesterday.

There’s something I’ve been trying to figure out how to say since my mom died.  I couldn’t quite figure it out.  I was looking for a nice way to say it, but there really isn’t. So here are some things I would prefer not to have heard in the last few months:

“They’re in a better place.” Yeah duh, I know, doesn’t make me feel any better.

“Jesus needed them more.”  Yep, that was said at my great nieces funeral, didn’t seem to help.

If  it’s an open casket funeral, don’t tell ANYONE “They look so good” or peaceful, or sweet, or whatever, they look dead and nobody in their right mind would say THAT.

I hesitate to post this one, I’ve received a lot of this statement in the last week and I ain’t mad atcha.
I understand the standard response is “I’m sorry for your loss” but honestly, we don’t really know how to respond to that.
Thank you? It’s OK? I have no idea, I’ve never been good about it.  This one isn’t HORRIBLE, but it’s difficult for the person receiving the platitude.

I had a professor who lost an infant son and someone came up to him and said “Well at least you didn’t have the chance to get to know him.”  It makes me wonder if after the person said this, he wished he had the memory zapper thing from Men in Black because SERIOUSLY!?!?! My professor said it took everything in his power not to strangle the man while yelling “THAT’S EXACTLY THE PROBLEM! I NEVER GOT TO KNOW HIM!”

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” is another rough phrase. There’s not a whole lot that anyone could do for me when mom died.  (Maybe pay my NIPSCO bill??) If I had figured out what they could do for me, I wouldn’t have called them anyway.  Might I suggest, you just regularly check on the person and ask if they need anything and then give examples. A meal? A foot rub? Going to Mt. Baldy to yell at God? These are all things I probably would have taken advantage of.

“How are you holding up?”  The answer is complicated.  If I had answered with the truth I would have said something like “I’m actually relieved that she died because she was so tired of being sick and she didn’t want our lives being interrupted anymore. It was really hard to watch. So I’m good.” I wasn’t good I had no idea that I was still in shock. But that’s how I felt at the time.  If I had said that to the random strangers who came up to me they would have looked at me like the biggest jerk in the world.

“I know what you’re going through.” NO! Just NO!

I’m sure at this point you’re like well then what should we do? There’s not a stock answer here, but here’s my suggestion:

When someone you know experiences the death of someone they loved….

hug them…

cry with them…

then SHUT UP!

Let the grieving person talk. If they want to. And if they don’t that’s OK too. You don’t have to fill the awkward silence between snotty sobs.

I’m sure you think that you have come up with some really comforting words for whoever is grieving. As confident as you are, you’re probably wrong.

Just own the silence or walk away.

UPDATE: I just saw this on a friend’s FB wall. It was posted to her by a friend after her Mother died recently. This is the message you should be conveying to people who experience loss:

“To be honest with you, I don’t have the words to make you feel better, but I do have arms to give you a hug, ears to listen to whatever you want to talk about and I have a heart; a heart that’s aching to see you smile again.”


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tammy Young
    May 09, 2012 @ 09:06:07

    I loved reading this Erin…I do often think what is the right thing to say to someone during a death. Our pastor just lost his wife, and I said to him the other day, I don’t know what to say in moments like this, all I know is I love you and I’m praying for you…My client Beverly and her sister Bonnie just lost their mother about three weeks ago, I literally let Bonnie sit in my chair and WAIL like nobodies business…I cried right with her and there were those akward moments of silence and I did feel the need to fill them, BUT, I didn’t…I just hugged her…My client Jackie tradgically lost her husband very suddenly, I still don’t know what to say to her. She is broken. I just hug her. That’s all I know to do. My client Mary Ed lost her husband in December, you’d think I’d be getting good at this by now, but, it’s never easy. I just wanna take the pain away and I know it’s impossible, but, I know that just reaching out in love has to be the best. Thank you for this Erin, honestly, thank you. SO, with all that being said, I pray that GOD blesses you and keeps you and fills your heart with peace. If you need a hug, I will give you a hug, if you need your feet rubbed, I can do that too… 🙂 I love your blogs. Keep’em coming!


    • rinnieeats
      May 09, 2012 @ 09:23:00

      That’s what I like to call “Doing it right”! I know it doesn’t always feel that way but really, that’s all you can do!
      Oh Tammy, you’re just lovely! I appreciate you so much!


  2. unrequitedbob
    May 09, 2012 @ 09:29:39

    This post is the truth. It’s so hard to let yourself grieve with them and be okay with it. We need more huggers.


  3. Tia Marsh
    May 09, 2012 @ 09:35:23

    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability…this is just a couple reasons you are in the top honest people I admire. Even though it is from a distance, I appreciate YOU so much!


  4. janet
    May 09, 2012 @ 11:28:09

    I’m glad I didn’t write, I’m sorry for your loss in your card. Or did I?! Seriously, just know sometimes we spit stupid things out before our brain can register what we just said. I eat crow more than I like. We love you and we are sorry for your loss cause it sucks. Totally.

    xo j


    • rinnieeats
      May 09, 2012 @ 11:42:16

      Cards are different! Cards don’t require an immediate response and awkward conversation. I appreciate it Janet. Really I do. That’s why this was not easy to post.


  5. diannec1945
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 15:06:53

    I am glad to read this post just at this moment.. (almost a year after it was written…. how did I miss it?)…. my son-in-law’s mother is about to pass away and I will be around a lot of family… your post is a reminder to say nothing unless something short like – there are no words….


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