Insights on Influenza Blog
Protecting children, families, and communities against influenza.

SUPPORT

Grief & Emotional Support

What to Say to Someone Who Has Lost a Loved One

It is common to feel awkward when trying to comfort someone who is grieving. Many people do not know what to say or do. The following are suggestions to use as a guide:

  • Acknowledge the situation and express your concern. Example: “I heard about [child’s name] and I’m sorry.” Or “I just wanted to say I was sorry about [child’s name].”
  • Use the child’s name as this helps keep their memory alive.
  • Be genuine in your communication and don’t hide your feelings. Example: “I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.” Remember, caring thoughts and hugs may make the person cry, but tears are part of the healing process.
  • Offer your support, and be specific. Example: “I would like to help you and your family; can I pick up your children from school this week?”
  • Don’t assume you know how the bereaved person feels on any given day.
  • Remember that a smile and “It’s good to see you” can make any person’s day a little brighter.
Comments to avoid when comforting a bereaved parent

Even though you have the best intentions when comforting someone who has experienced a loss, these often common phrases can be hurtful and aggravating to hear. Try not to use the following sentiments:

  • “I know how you feel.” Instead, say that “I’m sorry, I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.”
  • “It’s part of God’s plan.” Faith is very personal and the bereaved may not share your beliefs. It’s also not uncommon for people to question their faith during times like these.
  • “Look at what you have to be thankful for” or “At least you have your other children.” They know they have things to be thankful for, but right now they are not important. And one child certainly does not replace another.
  • At least you had your child for X years.” When this was said to one of our members, she thought to herself, “And what year would you choose for your own child to die?”
  • “He’s in a better place now.” It’s hard for any parent to believe that there is a better place for their child than with them.
  • “This is behind you now.” The loss of a child is never behind a parent. It will always be a part of them.
  • “You’ll get over it.” Although a parent will eventually move beyond acute grief, losing a child is not something a parent ever gets over.
  • Statements that begin with “You should” or “You will.” These statements are too directive. Instead you could begin your comments with: “Have you thought about…” or “You might…”
  • “You can have another baby.” One child cannot replace another.
How to help a grieving child

When a child in your life is experiencing grief, there are things you can do to help as a family member, family friend, or community member. If you are a parent of a grieving child, click here to learn more about how to help your child.

  • Speak to parents or guardians first before speaking to children. Make sure you understand and respect what the child knows, what they don’t know, and how you can best support them in their time of need.
  • Use the given name of the deceased when speaking of him or her.
  • Be willing to hear and discuss a child’s feelings and encourage him or her to talk about the person who died. Recalling memories (both good ones and trouble-making ones) might have great value to one child while others might not be ready to talk about the person. Be conscious of their response and encourage the child to share with his or her parents whenever possible.
  • Set aside time to check-in with the family regularly to see how they are coping. Respect information that a child may share with you in confidence but always remember that you have a responsibility to protect the child’s physical and emotional wellbeing; you may need to share some information with a parent or guardian.
  • Give children facts in a simple manner – be careful not to go into too much detail. Children will ask more questions when they are ready to do so.
  • Keep your involvement in the child’s daily life as routine as possible.
  • Pay attention to the child’s actions and behavior. Respect family boundaries but let the child’s parents know if you notice a change that worries you.
What not to do
  • Don’t force a child to publicly mourn if he or she doesn’t want to.
  • Don’t give false or confusing messages, like “Sally went to sleep.”
  • Don’t tell a child to stop crying because others might get upset.
  • Don’t try to shield a child from the loss. Children pick up on much more than adults realize. Including them in the grieving process will help them adapt and heal.
  • Don’t stifle your tears; by crying in front of your child, you send the message that it’s okay for him or her to express feelings, too. At the same time, try not to sob or lose control in front of your child; it’s too scary for him or her.
  • Don’t turn your child into your personal confidante. Rely on another adult or a support group instead.
  • Don’t tell a child they have grieved too long or to “get over it.”
There are many practical ways you can help a grieving person. You can offer to:
  • Shop for groceries or run errands.
  • Ask what the family likes to eat and offer to drop off a prearranged meal on a specific day. Best of all is to arrange a schedule for friends/neighbors to do the same.
  • Help with funeral arrangements.
  • Buy stamps and offer to make labels for acknowledgment cards.
  • Help set up an event, memorial and/or charitable fund for the family.
  • Stay in their home to take phone calls and receive guests.
  • Help with insurance forms or bills.
  • Take care of housework, such as cleaning or laundry.
  • Watch their children or pick them up from school.
  • Drive them wherever they need to go.
  • Look after their pets.
  • Go with them to a support group meeting.
  • Accompany them on a walk.
  • Arrange to take them to lunch or a movie with the understanding that it may be cancelled if the person is not up to it that day.
  • Share an enjoyable activity (game, puzzle, art project).
Stay Informed
Sign up for our Weekly Flu News and quarterly newsletter, Fighting Influenza, to stay up-to-date on the latest flu news.
Newsletter

LOGO LICENSE AGREEMENT

You are required to accept all of the terms and conditions in this License Agreement in order to receive a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-assignable, royalty-free license to use the FAMILIES FIGHTING FLU, INC. logo, displayed below (the “FFF Logo”), from Families Fighting Flu, Inc. (“FFF”). In order to accept these terms and conditions, you must click the “I Accept” button below.

  1. FFF hereby grants to you, and you accept, a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-assignable, royalty-free license to use the FFF Logo, which you may download and use solely in online and print earned media publications for a period of no more than six (6) months in the United States.
  2. You acknowledge that the FFF Logo is a valid trademark; that FFF is the sole owner of the FFF Logo; and that FFF retains all right, title, and interest in and to the FFF Logo. You agree that any and all use that you make of the FFF Logo, and any and all goodwill arising from your use of the FFF Logo, shall inure exclusively to the benefit of FFF.  You also agree that you shall not challenge the validity of the FFF Logo or FFF’s ownership or title thereto during the term of the License Agreement or thereafter.
  3. You agree that you shall use the FFF Logo only in the form shown above, and that you shall not alter, modify, change, or edit the FFF Logo in any manner.
  4. You acknowledge the valuable goodwill and reputation in the FFF Logo, and that it is essential that the high standards and reputation associated with the FFF Logo be maintained. You therefore agree to use the FFF Logo consistent with the highest standards of quality so as to protect and maintain the FFF Logo and FFF’s rights therein.
  5. FFF shall have the right to review and inspect your use of the FFF Logo at any time. FFF, in its sole discretion, may determine that you are not using the FFF Logo in an acceptable manner and require that you discontinue your use of the FFF Logo.  To the extent that FFF requires that you discontinue your use of the FFF Logo, you agree that you shall remove the FFF Logo from all online and print earned media publications as soon as practicable under the circumstances, and that you shall not use the FFF at any time in the future.
  6. You must include the following notice in connection with any use of the FFF Logo: “The Families Fighting Flu, Inc. logo is the registered trademark of Families Fighting Flu, Inc.”
I Accept