Talking About Death & Grief

By Lindsey Bina (2019)
Pastor, Care

Talking about death and grief is not always easy.

For those experiencing grief, it can be difficult to find the words to describe the depth of our feelings or to fully capture the complexity of our relationships.

For the observing friend, it can be hard to know what to say or to do to support someone who has experienced a painful loss.

Everyone has or will struggle with death, grief, and suffering at some point in their life. Perhaps this is a daunting, uncomfortable thought. Or perhaps it’s reassuring that we aren’t alone in our experience. Either way, we – as a faith community – are here with and for you.

On November 2 and 3, SOTV will celebrate “All Saints” weekend. During worship, we will remember the lives of our congregation members who have died during the past year. We will acknowledge that while death is a reality of our human experience, God’s claim over us knows no bounds. In our baptism, we are reminded of God’s extravagant love for each of us, and nothing – not even death – can separate us from that love of God that we find in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).

This time of remembrance allows us to create space for our grief while learning how to support each other in difficult times. As we continue to learn how to accompany one another, here are some tips from Rebecca Soffer, co-founder and CEO of Modern Loss and Jenni Brennan, professor at the National Center for Death Education in Newton, Mass. for what not to say to someone who is grieving, and what to say instead:

What not to say: How are you doing?
What to say instead: It’s really tough right now for you.

What not to say: They are in a better place.
What to say instead: I’m sorry that you’re suffering.

What not to say: Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.
What to say instead: I’ll come over to do a few loads of laundry or – I’ll drive carpool for the next month.

What not to say: You can always get remarried.
What to say instead: Tell me about your loved one.

What not to say: I know how you feel.
What to say instead: I can imagine how you are feeling.

What not to say: Everyone dies eventually.
What to say instead: You must really miss them.

What not to say: She would have wanted it this way.
What to say instead: I would like to honor them this way.

What not to say: You’re handling this better than I expected.
What to say instead: You might not be feeling great, but that’s okay.

What not to say: Nothing at all.
What to say instead: Remember when…?

Children’s Books About Grief and/or Death:

  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst discusses the unbreakable connections between loved ones. This book has helped heal children and adults alike.
  • The Memory Box by Joanna Rowland artfully describes what it is like to remember and grieve a loved one who has died from the perspective of a young child.