May 14, 2021

Things Never to Say to Someone who is Grieving (& What to Do Instead).

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I think of you every now & then
wonder if we’ll ever meet again.
If the space you left behind
will ever be filled again.
Perhaps, not in reality,
yet, in my heart’s space
you will smile, laugh, and speak to me again…
They say life must go on,
they had to go
so, they’ve gone.
Little do they know
that without you
life has stopped.
Nothing will ever be the same again
for your space will always be staring at me
waiting to be filled again…
Some day…”


I write this piece with a heavy heart.

The pandemic spread in India during the second wave, like wildfire.

Nothing we could do could stop the millions of lives that just got washed out in front of us in a matter of just a day.

Everyone has lost someone. Some lost their parents, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, uncles, and some lost their entire family in one go.

Death and loss are difficult concepts and realities for us humans to grapple with. When we lose one person, it’s as if someone cut off a part of us and left us in excruciating pain.

And then, there is this kind of loss—of this magnitude.

It kills your soul. It makes your life devoid of any meaning. After all, we thrive on our connections and relationships.

We are not programmed to live in isolation. We need and want our loved ones beside us.

All these people add meaning, purpose, sunshine, laughter, joy, and the richness of experience and living to our lives.

And one day, they are gone.

Even if we see it coming, we still cannot prepare ourselves for this kind of loss.

When someone dies, it leaves a black hole behind, and it takes time, a lot of effort, and courage to fill it up with love and sweet memories because the part of us that’s conscious and aware knows that our living reality will never be the same again.

Yet we try to do the best we can.

It is also these times that we also come to know the others who we can rely on for comfort, sharing our grief and loss. We search for those who can help us wade through these murky waters of loneliness, hopelessness, denial, anger, guilt, and helplessness.

And what pains me is the fact that we, as humans, sometimes end up saying the most inappropriate things to the one who’s grieving. As a friend rightly said, we understand so little of emotions.

We hardly understand basic emotions, so then dealing with loss and grief is like being in another universe altogether. Therefore, it becomes crucial that we understand how to support someone in such a state.

In today’s time, we all have lost someone or the other. We need to learn better ways to show support and comfort.

Having been through a tremendous, life-changing loss myself and in trying to support as many as I can during this time, I have heard so many statements that come across as insensitive and hurtful.

Here are some things that we shouldn’t say to someone who’s grieving:

1. He/she had to go, now it’s time for you to move on.
How do you move on when you’ve lost a father, mother, or son? Find another one? If it were that simple, then why do we mourn? Why is it so difficult to come to terms with this loss? The fact is, that there is no “moving on.” There is only acceptance of the loss of a life and the fact that we have to pick ourselves up and carry on with whatever that’s left of us. Carry on without a body part and that’s not moving on. There is nothing logical or practical about it.

2. Don’t cry.
Why? So what do we do with all these emotions that are eating us up from within? Crying is a natural human response. It is inhuman to tell someone to suppress their emotions during this time. They need all the time and space they can get to let it all out.

3. You can’t spend your entire life crying over him/her.
Grief and loss are complex. They are traumas, and yes, some of us can spend our entire lives being tied to the memory of the one we lost. Human beings aren’t replaceable. Accepting this kind of loss isn’t easy. And it is normal to think about someone we’ve lost years after they left our physical space and bawl our eyes out. It’s human.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not “get over” the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same again. Nor should you be the same, nor should you want to.” ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

4. Now, you have to take care of everyone.
I’ve heard so many people say this to a member of the family during such times. What we don’t realise is that such statements are pressurizing and isolate that one son or daughter or brother who’s also still coming to terms with his/her own loss.

What we can do instead to show our support and be there for our friends and family in a truly genuine, heartfelt way are:

1. Understand that the loss of a loved one is traumatic and excruciatingly painful. We need to acknowledge their loss and pain by being there—physically and emotionally.

2. We need to tell them that we are there, and they can reach out to us whenever they want.

3. We need to be open to giving them space—to cry, to vent, to go over their memories, to grieve. We need to listen, and it’s okay if we don’t have anything to say or don’t know what to say. Sometimes, just listening is enough. A hug or letting them lean on our shoulder is enough.

“Just being there for someone can sometimes bring hope when all seems hopeless.” ~ Dave G. Llewelyn

4. Understand that people process loss and grief differently. There is no set format or timeline. For some, the state of shock and denial can be all-consuming. Some may be able to come to terms with the situation faster. Some may be stoic, yet might have an ocean emotions that they are be struggling to control. Some might be quiet and withdrawn; some might talk more. Everyone’s loss is their own.

5. Check up on them to see how they’re holding up. Taking care of their basic needs like food, water intake, sleep pattern is of great support because, in a distraught state, the body and mind cannot function normally. They need lots of care during this time.

6. Ask them if they need anything or if we can do anything for them and, in fact, help out wherever and however possible. In these times, even small acts of care and kindness matter a lot.

7. Not giving logical, practical advice about moving on in life. People will pick up the pieces when they’re ready to.


“Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” ~ Author unknown

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