Bereavement Etiquette

February 1, 2016

No one knows what to say.  Neither do I.

Just don’t ask, “Is there anything I can do?”  I don’t know what I need.  My brain is barely working.  The only thing that pops into my head when someone asks that is, “Can you bring my baby back?”

Instead, tell the person what you CAN do and let them decide if it’s something they want or need.

Can I walk your dog?

Can I watch your kids?

Can I bring you a meal?

Can I listen to you?

Can I hold you?

Can I _________?

I don’t want to ask people for help, but I know I need it. This approach is a lot more comfortable and comforting.

Along those lines, if you offer to be a sounding board, be just that.  If you say, “Call me if you want to yell, scream, cry,” then be ready for the call.  Just listen.  Don’t judge.  Don’t correct me or try to interpret what I’m saying or make assumptions about the way I feel.  Just listen.  Good things to say include:

“You are allowed to feel this way.”


“God can handle how you feel.”

A lot of people hurt when a loved ones dies.  Each is entitled to experience their own pain in their own way.

Don’t judge.  Don’t tell them they should not feel a certain way or that how they feel is “not true”.  If they think it or feel it, then it’s true for them.

Don’t say:

“You’re not a victim.”

“You’ve got to get back to the way life was before.”

“You’re young.  You can have more children.”

“At least she’s in a better place.”

When you’re in pain like this, NONE OF THAT HELPS.  Those types of statements will cause anger and resentment.  Although you’re trying to help, you may be alienating yourself from your friend or loved one.

Let your loved one lead the way.  There are no rules in grief.  Whatever they want to talk about, go with it.  Don’t compare their loss to yours.  Be present.  Listen.  Show that you care about their pain.  Don’t tell them how to feel.  They know how they feel.



  1. Our youngest son, Walker Doyle de Vries-Douglass passed away 3 years ago tomorrow-early morning April 1, 2019 from SIDS. My mom passed away last October so this is the 1st death anniversary without her. I read all of your blog posts while in bed preparing for the worst night of the year and they’ve brought me such comfort and given great ideas and help to our friends and family on how to handle this day and our grief in general! You’ve inspired me to re-read my journals and try to reach people the way you are. Thank you for sharing your pain to help others!


    1. Amanda, I’m so sorry for these tremendous losses. Please know that I’ll be praying for God to cover you in comfort, that you will hear His voice and be led by Him. Trust that all He does is for our good, even though it’s not what we would want for ourselves. The pain we carry can be such a heavy load. It would be so easy to break under the weight of it all. I imagine it’s like a huge stone. Instead of letting it break me, I decided to lay it down and climb on top. I see things much clearer up here. I am sure others will find hope through your journey. May those who are comforted become comforters. God be with you.


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