Seven Things Not to Say to the Grieving
The apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 1:3,4 - "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

Each Christian ought to endeavor to be the best comforter he or she can be. Steve Higginbotham, a faithful preacher of the gospel of Christ, wrote an outstanding article recently on comforting those who have lost a loved one. I have copied his excellent thoughts below and only made some minor editing.

My family and I just recently suffered the loss of my dad. During the days following his death, we were comforted by all the kind words that were spoken in an effort to encourage us. But not everyone has the same experience. I've stood at the head of many caskets through the years and I've heard many comments made to grieving families that made me cringe. Like Job's friends, they would have served as better comforters if they would have just remained silent.

This post is designed to simply offer some suggestions that may allow us to comfort the grieving, rather than adding unnecessary pain to their grief. Below are seven things not to say to those who are grieving.

1. "I understand exactly how you feel." You cannot know that to be true. The fact that you may have suffered the same relational loss doesn't mean the depth of your loss is the same. Simply saying, "I'm sorry" is a lot more honest than, "I understand exactly how you feel."

2. "It was God's will." We should not affirm what we do not know. Some things in life happen by chance; at least that's what Jesus said (cf. Luke 10:31 ).

3. "God must have needed another angel in heaven." First of all, people don't become angels when they die. Second, to suggest that God took this person from his children, parents, or spouse because He "needed him" paints God with a rather selfish stroke and can lead to resentment. Why would God need this person more than his family needed him?

4. "Now, now, don't cry." Why not? Why would we encourage a person to suppress their grief? Crying is a natural human response to grief; it is healthy.

5. "If you need anything, just let me know." This is really an empty statement that may salve our conscience, but does little to help a person. Rarely will a person volunteer a need to such a statement. A more useful statement would be, "What do you want me to do to help?" or "Would you rather have me do this or that for you?" Or, if you are a close friend, simply take the initiative to help them (e.g., show up at their home to wash dishes, cook, or whatever is appropriate).

6. "At least you're young and can have more children/marry again." As insensitive as this sounds, I've heard it said to grieving parents on numerous occasions. We're not talking about the loss of a family pet that can be replaced, but an irreplaceable member of the family.

7. "It's better this way." Says who? To many survivors, the sacrifices they would be required to make would be well worth it if they could have their loved one back.

Please do your best to avoid these empty and potentially hurtful comments. If you struggle for words to say, then may I suggest the following?

Your words aren't going to "fix" anything, so don't try. They should simply be spoken to express your love and concern. May we learn to comfort others the way that God comforts us (II Cor. 1:3,4).

* * *

In addition to the great thoughts above offered by brother Higginbotham, we need to also be very careful about the use of the phrase, "He's in a better place now." Such may or may not be the case. God is the judge; not us. We all have our opinions, but some are better left unstated unless we really know the person well and know that the deceased knew God and had obeyed the gospel (cf. II Thess. 1:7-9). To offer these words lightly ("he's in a better place now") is to potentially give false hope to family members (who may themselves need to get right with the Lord). To do such, in my estimation, is foolish. Some would suggest that instead of saying anything at all, sometimes the best thing to do is to simply offer a hug or a sincere handshake (unless you are exceedingly close and dear to the family).