Let people know that it’s okay that it hurts.

“This IS hard.”

People need to hear that after a loved one has died.

After asking people what they wish people said or did after loss, one theme that emerged was a desire to have the loss seen. I’m calling it, for now, “validation,” echoing a person who wrote, “Validate the magnitude of the loss and the range of emotions.”

People want to know that it’s okay that it hurts and the pain lasts. Someone was grateful that people “Normalized the fact that I was not/ should not be okay in the days after.” (What we often tell them is that it’s okay.)

People want to have family and friends, coworkers and leaders recognize the loss. One person said, “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.”

People want to hear that death is death and is hard, regardless of the age or the situation. As one person wrote, “I wish people had rated the deaths the same [natural death vs suicide]”

When I called my book for these moments, This Is Hard: What I Say When Loved Ones Die, I was drawing on what seemed to be helpful from years of those conversations. Now that I’ve heard from survey respondents, I realize that it’s more important than I knew.

If you are at a loss for what to say when a friend’s loved one has died, you can start with this: “This is hard.”


For more on the research project, see http://beinghelpfulinloss.com

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