Loss, the Holidays, and the “Right” Thing to Say

I have written on this topic before and focused on phrases to avoid. But as I was having a conversation with an aunt during Thanksgiving about a dear friend of hers who had recently lost a grandchild, it prompted new thoughts and feelings. This will be that family’s first holidays since his passing and my aunt wanted to reach out and say “the right thing.” As humans, we worry about saying the right thing, and often we avoid sharing our feelings for fear of being wrong. We feel moved to share words as profound as the loss itself. Often times we get wrapped up in this need that we don’t truly speak what is on our mind or we fall back on the trite, pithy condolences, which can come across false and empty. The simplest of phrases can actually go a long way.

I am thinking of you during this difficult time. – Loss of any kind is isolating. We feel alone and devastated in our grief. Having someone make contact can often help heal some of the widest cracks. It says that you are with me in this dark time. And maybe opens doors to further communication.

I wish _______ were here. – There is nothing more profound than this statement, especially during the holidays when the focus is togetherness. Missing that person becomes especially sharp. Having someone tell you they are missing that person too helps carry that burden of grief.

I am here for you. – This phrase only works if you are willing to listen and not offer advice or those trite phrases I mentioned before. Or even better just sit and let that person cry and give them space.

Most of all – show up, reach out. Don’t skip saying something for fear of saying the wrong thing. Speak from your heart.