They are in a better place.

Now what place might be better than to be with the people, husband or wife, lover, friends, whoever that love them? God called them home. Wow, now could God please send them back! Think about how this sounds to someone who doesn't believe in God. Or, someone whose loved one was murdered, or died in a terrible accident, or was a small child, or any number of possible scenarios.

 

I know how you feel.

How can you? You are not me. The arrogance of this is self explanatory. This is generally uttered by someone in the line at a wake, who will then start a grief competition about how awful it was for them when so and so died. Once again, this is supposed to be about the person who has suffered a loss, not about you.

 

God will never give you more than you can deal with.

 

I wonder how the people in Darfur who have lost their entire families would feel about this comment. What God are they speaking about—Thor, or maybe Athena? This is a manipulative way of making people responsible for their own grief. The almighty or whoever, and all the rest of us, expect you to deal with this loss in a way that makes us all comfortable with it. Once again, this is a patronizing, self involved platitude, which can only be harmful to and painful for the bereaved.

 

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

I love it when this phrase is spoken by people who are devout atheists. What does it mean? It is just empty Hallmark card nonsense.

 

They had a great life.

How would you know? What they are actually saying is, you shouldn't be grieving. You should be happy for them. It isn't a great loss; their time was over.

 

You are really not entitled to be so hurt. 

 

Your grief should be short. It is all for the best: Again such arrogance, the best for whom? Who gets to decide these things? People generally say this when someone has had a serious illness. People who have had a loved one with a terrible illness wish that they had never become ill to begin with, not that death has finally come.

I know how you feel, my dog died.

 

When my husband and I lost our 24 year old son, a close relative called me and said the following: "Well, I know are upset, but it was just as hard for me when my dog died. I wish I had told him that he should have a vasectomy so he wouldn't have to deal with things like this."

You can have another child.

Yes but I can never have another Tobey. Children are not replaceable.

Everything happens for a reason.

Ok. I have a lifetime ahead of me. Tell me why my three sons died. I am listening.

He was such a great person God wanted him home.

It is true that God has an appointed time for everyone to be born and for everyone to die. It is nice to hear a compliment about our loved one. But the two together is profoundly off. It's like saying great people don't belong here. Or if you are too great, you will die.

He brought this on himself.

If I heard someone say this to my face, I would have to be physically restrained. When someone dies by suicide or a drug overdose, strangers comfort themselves by blaming the dead person. It's a way of telling themselves that it cannot happen to them. It is a despicable allegation and often not true.

He wouldn't want you to be so sad.

This one is fraught with connotations. First, it assumes they are watching us. This is not known and not accepted by many people, even Bible believing Christians such as myself. Second, it assumes they would not understand the abyss that their being gone has left in our lives. I know for sure that my boys and husband know how much I am devastated at their deaths and if they could see me now, would be affirmed by my everlasting love.

One of the worst things I have ever heard was about a teenager killed in a car accident. A man came to the funeral and said to the dead boy's mother: 'Well, he was adopted."

It's time to move on.

Moving on is synonymous with leaving our child behind. When you physically move to a new place you are leaving your former residence and moving to a new one. One of the biggest fears that people who have lost children is that their child will be forgotten and/or that their life did not matter. We will not move on. 

 

The best and the only thing that you can say to someone who has lost someone they love is: I am very sorry for your loss. After that the kindest thing you can do is listen, be compassionate and understanding, and offer to continue to listen for however long and however often they need to be heard.