What Not to Say to a Friend Who Lost a Parent
Your best friend is having a rough year. After months of taking care of her sick dad, he passed away and she’s totally (and understandably) devastated. If you’re struggling with what to do, just be there. (That’s what really counts.) And if you’re struggling with what to say, steer clear of these five pitfalls.
“I know exactly what you’re going through.”
There’s no doubt about it: Your heart’s in the right place. But even if you’ve also lost a parent or close family member, you can never know exactly what another person is dealing with. In fact, your friend could be so lost in grief, she might not even know what she’s feeling right now. Tweak your statement to a more supportive, “I’m so sorry about everything you’re going through,” and leave your personal experiences out of it.
“You need a night out.”
Taking your friend out to dinner and drinks might seem like exactly what she needs to forget her troubles—especially if she’s been spending the last few months (or years) taking care of a sick parent. But if she’s not feeling up for being social right now, don’t force it. Let her know the invite is always open, but for now, she might be more up for watching Netflix or just talking on the phone.
“I don’t know what to say.”
Luckily, your friend isn’t looking for you to say the magic words that will fix everything. Nothing anyone can say will bring her mom or dad back, and it’s not your responsibility to try to cheer her up. So don’t worry. She probably doesn’t know what to say, either. Just listen, be present and provide support wherever you can.
“She’s in a better place.”
Unless you’re 100 percent sure your pal believes in an afterlife, it’s best not to bring up heaven or religion. And even if her late mother is singing with choirs of angels right now, your statement still doesn’t address your friend’s own personal feelings about the loss. Instead, acknowledge how difficult this all must be for her and encourage her to share memories about her late parent, if she feels like talking about it.
“Let me know if you need anything.”
It’s wonderful that you’re offering to be on-call and available, but an open-ended invitation puts the burden on the grieving friend to be the one to reach out (which can be tricky and feel awkward). So instead of waiting for her to get in touch, call her and see if she’d like you to bring over takeout and a bottle of wine on Game of Thrones night.