What people say when you ask what they wish others had done or said – a research note

In the research project, I asked respondents what they wish someone had said or done. In another post, I’ll unpack the categories of responses. However, as I was going through the 127 responses to this question, a handful stand out for their honest reflections on how diverse our experiences and responses are.


  • “Acknowledge that we had lost a baby. Ask how I was. Ask what they could do to help.  But no one seemed to know what to say. “
  • “…Sitting in silence with a hand to hold was just right.  I needed to set the pace I guess. I felt firehosed by others’ emotionally charged talking.”
  • “don’t say “Let me know if I can do anything”. You don’t know what you need.”
  • “I was taking care of her for a month before her death. She believed she was going to be healed. I wish she would’ve acknowledged her family before she died, but she couldn’t accept death as the answer.”
  • “Not assume that I was in pain about this loss. I had just spent 22 months caring for her. I was at peace with her GRADUATION, and relieved.”
  • “…the toughest part was the months after, as the many things we used to do as friends weren’t possible.  So it was loneliness that came in the grieving process that continues as you miss someone you used to spend time with every week.
  • “.. actually “be” there and engaged; not doing their grocery list in their head as they were secretly watching the clock.”
  • “It’s not a formula.”
  • “I am as much at a loss for what I would have liked to hear as they were for what to say.”
  • “I was in such shock that I left to drive home shortly after the news and was met with much resistance from work. A little support of any kind would have been helpful.”
  • “I don’t really know…I needed some time by myself that I didn’t really have. I wanted people with me, but I also needed time to fall apart and not be strong.”
  • “Eventually everyone went back to their busy lives leaving me to fend for myself.  Having lived with my mom in the end, and being her primary caregiver, the emptiness really only hit weeks after she was gone and support from others waned. “
  • “Mostly just experience it with us and not say much.  Too many people tried and said things that weren’t helpful”
  • “Recognition of the tremendous loss Covid caused our family and families all over the world.”
  • “I wish the chaplain had come and said a prayer. It was a Sunday morning when he died and I realize they were probably busy.”

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