A beautiful heartfelt piece on Platitudes of bereavement from Brian Brown originally composed in 2015 but modified and expanded upon today:
Platitudes… those little things that we say.
Oftentimes they spill out of our mouths when we don’t know WHAT to say. But I caution you all to be careful with platitudes when it comes to giving them to the bereaved.
“He/she is in a better place.”
Perhaps that’s true, but I REALLY wish he/she were still here, and I will miss him/her every day. I can scarcely imagine how I am going to survive, and YOU think it helps me to hear that my loved one is better off dead?
“Oh. You will NEVER be the same again.”
Well… duh! Is that supposed to HELP me at this moment? How about,
“This will take [fill-in the exact number of months or years] to get over.”
And YOU conducted some type of double-blind grief research project to give you this kind of data for EACH and EVERY person with a hard-stop on their grief? Nonsense!
“God will never give us more than we can handle.”
Well, I certainly NOW wish that I was a knock-kneed, weak, sniveling person so that this would have never happened to me. Shame on ME for being so strong!
The truth is that the platitude often gives the SPEAKER comfort rather than the bereaved. Also, be careful projecting any of your own losses onto someone else’s. And be especially careful when you speak about God’s intentions in the matter, as I would suspect that only God should speak for Himself.
So, what CAN I say to the bereaved, Brian?
My wife Darlene and I lost our beloved daughter Bria Brown to an acute asthma attack at age 14 in 2015, and the phrase I found especially sympathetic and poignant when folks gave us condolences at our loss was, “there are no words.” That is… because there simply are NONE that can encapsulate such a horrible, tragic and permanent loss. It’s honest. It also says that you care enough to approach the bereaved when so many simply don’t have the courage to do so. The critical thing is that you are THERE, present, speaking a few words about… how there are none.
Other good ones:
- “Thoughts and prayers.”
- “My condolences.”
- “I am so sorry.”
- “Rest in Peace.”
Honest, heartfelt words like that. Often, the LESS that we say, the better. Silence is fine. It allows you to listen and observe.
In speaking with other bereaved people, something that’s even BETTER than condolences is a serious or even humorous memory of the departed. When we hear stories of our longed-for loved ones, a special memory keeps them ALIVE and in our present thoughts. Often, one of our biggest fears is that the departed will be forgotten as the rest of the living go about… living. So, you bringing up a remembrance is one of the best gifts you can give.
Please DO reach out with your cards, letters, and simple gifts of food, chores, errands, concern, and condolences. Go ahead and fill up their voicemail and Facebook pages with your memories of the departed. Just, PLEASE, leave out those platitudes.
Love all around, above, below, to the left and to the right, before you and behind you,
Brian Brown & The Bria Brown Foundation
As you read above, My wife Darlene and I
lost our beloved daughter Bria Brown
to an acute asthma attack at age 14 in 2015.
We are making great strides in our community
with asthma education, mental wellness,
excellence and courage awards in the local schools,
and kindness in everyday life.
We would love for you to visit and support
our daughter’s foundation at BriaBrown.org
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