She’s in a Better Place: What Not to Say to Someone Who is Grieving 

Deepa David   |   July 21, 2023 

It was the day after my mother-in-law passed away. We were in Chennai, at my husband’s family home. Many came to pay their last respects. My mind was a clutter of emotions. We were grieving the loss of a dear one. We had lost her to dementia. So the years leading up to this day were not exactly easy. They were some of our toughest years as a family. 

During the course of that day, I heard a lot of words spoken to me. So many of them that make me cringe even now when I think about it. So many words that came from sincere hearts but were useless at that point. 

Here are some statements that I heard that day (which you might have heard too at a funeral home or which you may have used too). Here’s what you do not say to someone who has lost a loved one. Or at least in my opinion is not useful.

  • She’s in a better place.
  • At least she’s not suffering anymore.
  • Any help you need don’t feel bad to ask.
  • Any help you need, feel free to call or text me.
  • My condolences.
  • It must be so hard for you, I understand (no you don’t).
  • The Bible says…

And here’s the killer statement that blew my mind. A family friend walked up to my father-in-law and said,”Mohan, no need to cry now, she’s in heaven and you are free. You don’t have to be homebound and tied to her bedside any more!” I do not know how my father-in-law stood calmly through that statement, because I audibly gasped, that someone had the audacity to spew out that kind of rubbish to him.

But also that day I remember one conversation I had with an uncle who had come to pay his last respects. He pulled me aside and asked, "Deepa, can I restock your fridge for you? Can I get you guys some bread, milk and juice?” Once I had said yes, he quietly went down to the grocery store down the street, bought the stuff, restocked my fridge and smiled, waved goodbye and left.

That, my dear reader, was like a breath of fresh air for me. It was not the usual funeral home jargon that you hear. Now that was practical and helpful. He did not say any of the usual stuff. He just helped in a very practical way. When I couldn’t think of the mundane necessities he thought of it. Instead of offering flowery words, he refreshed us with bread and milk and juice. 

In a funeral home, we might never find the right words to say, and at those times it is better to be quiet. It is better to offer our shoulders for the grieving to cry on and we should cry with them instead of saying something cliché. Our comfort for all eternity, in life, death and suffering is Jesus alone. And He wept at Lazarus’s tomb. 

So the next time you have to meet someone who is suffering or grieving, pray that God gives you the wisdom to be "quick to listen and slow to speak…"


Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

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Deepa David

Deepa David skillfully juggles her various roles as a wife and mother of three kids. Her biggest role is to support her husband in ministry, bringing stability into a demanding ministry environment. She has a heart for underprivileged women and has served with commercial sex workers and women in situations of exploitation and abuse. She is also theologically trained with an MA in Christianity from SAIACS. She is joyful all the time and never tires of hosting people in her home.

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