I don’t know what to say… A common thought after someone you know has lost a loved one. What are the right words, what should you say?
Just outside of Edmonton, AB in the town of Leduc, a workplace accident on November 15, 2018 led to the death of three workers. The tragedy was felt by many who work in similar industrial settings and many people mourned the men who lost their lives, even if they didn’t know them personally. For the families of the workers though, it is a personal tragedy. Cody Bondarchuk–the son of Daryn Bondarchuk, one of the men who died in the Leduc accident—took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the grieving process. What he shared was a touching and highly relatable thread he calls “Things They Don’t Tell You When Your Parent Dies Suddenly, a Thread” (https://twitter.com/codybondarchuk/status/1063595402073522176). I would encourage you to read it if you feel able, but know it may stir up a lot of emotions. It is raw and moving and truthful.
Two of his points though are particularly relevant when it comes to looking for the right things to say. In an interview for Global, (https://globalnews.ca/news/4688799/leduc-workplace-death-son-grief-essay/) Karen Bartko reports Cody’s words:
“It’s just been such a strange blur,” he said. “All the clichés that people say when someone passes — I always just rolled my eyes at them, but now, I really believe them.”
A grieving person may feel like they are in a movie or a nightmare. The shock may make life feel surreal. If you’ve never faced the death of a loved one yourself, trying to find the right thing to say to a grieving friend can be tough. You may be scared of saying the wrong thing, of somehow making it worse for them because of your words. You may want to read our advice on what NOT to say to a grieving person. (https://grievingtogether.ca/not-say-grieving-person-1-mistake-people-make-might-surprise/) Some people find it too difficult to find the right words, so don’t say anything at all.
If you find yourself in this position, refrain from platitudes that refer to “a better place” or anything that implies death is a good thing. A person mourning the loss of a loved one will not feel the same way. Forcing them to agree out of politeness is not kind. Instead, we want to assure you that talking about the person who has died and your memories of them is almost always welcomed by the people who are grieving. As Cody writes in his 14th tweet:
You start to hear about everyone who was better off for knowing your dad. All the people he coached, worked with,helped out, and showed kindness to.
One of the things the recently bereaved will appreciate is to hear your memories of the person who has died. They may be comforted by their own memories and glad to hear stories they may not have known. Even better is writing them down so that the family has a tangible way to go back to the memory again and again.
Grieving Together offers a memory box kit (https://grievingtogether.ca/shop/large-memory-guest-box-set-100-2/) that is a tasteful way to solicit memories from visitors and those attending the funeral. Each card is affixed with the mourning symbol of your choice. On the back there is room to write a memory or story to share with the family. For the bereaved, leafing through the memories their loved one has left with others will serve as a comforting activity not only at the time of loss, but also on anniversaries of the loss, or at any time comfort is needed.o
So if you don’t know what to say, consider sharing a memory. The benefits of acknowledgement and sharing carry far more than clichés and platitudes.
Take Time – Acknowledge Your Loss – Grieve Together