What do you say when…someone dies?

crying angelThis has been a week of “What to say when” for me.  I’ve found myself three times wondering how in the world I could console someone, or support them in difficult situations.  One was the loss of a Dad to suicide.  Another was the trauma of a boss who was making life impossible and the third was someone who needed my support because of a diagnosis of cancer which is very frightening.  

All three times my heart ached but I feared the right words would fail me when they needed me to say things that would be supportive and helpful.  

For at least two…maybe three blogs I will try to address these difficult times we all find ourselves in with a little insight I have gained.  If you have further insights and special things you like to share with people in these circumstances please feel free to do so.  

…when someone dies?

We’ve all been there, standing solemnly in the line at the funeral home trying to figure out what in the world to say to the person we care about who is grieving a great loss.

Having lost parents, grandparents, dear friends and a son I have likely had more experience in this department than many and I have had some people say some things to me which were wonderfully kind but also things which cut to the quick.

To give the good folks who go through those lines and meet us on the street I will give some leeway.  It’s not easy to come up with the right thing to say but I know that sometimes saying nothing except a genuine “I’m so sorry” is really quite sufficient.

One of the great things you can do to support people is to never stop saying the name of the person they have loved and lost when you talk to them.  The person is gone but the memories and the big place they had in their lives is still very real.

When my friend’s Dad died by suicide this week I was one of the few people she knew who could actually identify with what she was going through.  I could actually say I understood and that was a good thing to say for me but it would not be for most people because they don’t understand what loss to suicide is like.

After my son’s death, I found this poem and posted it on my desk at work to help people who wanted to support me.  While it is written about people who lose their children I think it has wisdom for any loss.  Read it often.  Put in your bible or family album so you know where it is next time you visit a funeral home.  You may need to remind yourself.

When you talk to me about the death of my child…

 Please, don’t ask me if I’m over it yet

I’ll never be over it.

Please, don’t tall me she’s in a better place,

She isn’t with me.

Please, don’t say at least she isn’t suffering.

I haven’t come to terms with

why she had to suffer at all.

Please, don’t tell me you know how I feel,

Unless you have lost child.

Please, don’t ask me if I feel better.

Bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up.

Please don’t tell me at least you had her

 for so many years.

What year would choose for your child to die?

Please, don’t tell me God never gives us

more than we can bear.

Please, just say you are sorry.

Please, just say you remember my child if you do.

Please just let me talk about my child.

Please, mention my child’s name.

Please, just let me cry.



About Peggy Guiler

You just never know what show up on my blog. As the name implies it is about the stuff of life just like Spilt Milk. Everyday events spark thought and contemplation. Special events in the community, the country or the world may strike a cord and get me talking. Sometimes it's about people in my life or circumstances, sometimes about my garden, sometimes about a book or a political issue. Always it's about something I am passionate about. In my business, River of Hope Enterprises (www.riverofhopeenterprises.com), I work as an "Certified Coach" (International Coach Federation), a trainer, consultant and speaker. and as a spiritual director. I also drive a school bus to keep the wolf from the door while I build my business. I love the kids on the bus (most of the time). My family is grown and I have three grandkids who thrill my heart but I don't get to see any of them very often. Circumstances of life have made "family" difficult. My son died by suicide at age 16 in 2000 and the strain on our family relationships since has been huge. Mental health is a field where I worked for almost 22 years and where I still do some consulting and training. That combined with my own battle with depression and my son's death weave together to form some of my greatest soap box items: suicide intervention, suicide bereavement and peer support in mental health are right on the top of my list. Social justice is an underlying passion. Keeping the wolf from the door as a single parent was full-time work and my career path as a journalists was augmented with cleaning contracts, cooking, retail clerk, and bartending. I have known hard work and am grateful for the experience and perspective it has given me. A firmly grounded faith and a passion for learning has now taken me toward a new field as a Spiritual Director and I am soon adding to that a license to marry people. As I move toward retirement I am very aware that I have to keep working so I chose to do things which will meet my modest financial needs and also my love of supporting people in their life journey. Woven into all of this is my love of writing. Trained as a Journalist, and having worked in the field as a freelance news writer for many years, I have a great love for writing. This blog is a new beginning for me. As I hone my skills and begin to form a daily discipline of writing I hope it will lead to more writing in the future.
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2 Responses to What do you say when…someone dies?

  1. Colleen says:

    We need time together..

  2. Pingback: What to Say When…Someone’s About to Lose Their Job | Spilt Milk

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