When a friend experiences a loss, whether it be a death in the family, a divorce, separation, miscarriage, or other staggering event, it can often be difficult to know what to say. The tendency to simply repeat the same platitudes—"I'm so sorry"; "You'll be in my thoughts"—is understandably strong, but can sometimes lead you down the wrong path. Take a look at the Facebook comments of anyone who has posted something sad, and they read like a broken record.
Want to know what's not particularly helpful? Read on for some common phrases that surprisingly do more harm than good.
Keeping these tips in mind will help maximize your ability to help your friend. But remember, perhaps the worst thing to say is nothing at all: Many people in the throes of grief report that the disappearance of otherwise well-meaning friends—who perhaps just were uncomfortable or worried bout being unable to say the perfect thing—was the most painful thing of all.
Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and media commentator. She is the author of the upcoming book Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World, and the voice behind the longtime mental health advice column Baggage Check in the Washington Post Express. Join the conversation on Facebook.