4 things not to say to a grieving group member

Sooner or later, death will come to someone in your Bible study group. I teach a group of empty nest adults, and most of us are dealing with aging parents who are dying. This past year alone, 5 of my group members lost a parent to death.

But death comes to younger adults as well. Grandparents die. A baby is stillborn. An accident happens unexpectedly. What are you to say to your grieving group members to help them while they are suffering? Here are four things that you shouldn’t say – just strike these from your mind and your vocabulary:

  1. “He/she is in a better place.” This may pr may not be true, but don’t presume to know the spiritual condition of the person who has died. Instead, say “I’m really sorry you are hurting right now.”
  2. “I understand exactly how you feel.” You may or may not know exactly what the grieving group member is feeling and experiencing. Most grieving adults are going to quickly discount this and will not believe that you have walked a mile in their shoes. Resist the urge to empathize so closely with the grieving member that you lose your credibility with them.
  3. “How can I help?” This sounds innocent enough, but it’s hard for a grieving person to answer. Their mind is numb and they most likely feel overwhelmed. They can’t articulate how you can help them. It’s better to simply go into action – take food to them, show up and cut the grass, or do some other tangible ministry that meets a need they have in a practical way.
  4. Nothing. Many people are uncomfortable around death. They never reach out to the surviving partner because they are uncomfortable and would prefer not to address the topic of death at all. Saying nothing may wrongly communicate that you do not care. Share a good memory of the deceased with your surviving group member – take a walk down memory lane.
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