When You Feel the Need to Talk to Someone Grieving

Remember that you’re dealing with raw nerves, sadness, and anger. Your words will matter in ways you can’t even imagine.

Ramona Grigg


Bright and dark clouds over calm waters with overhanging cedar branches in the foreground.
Dark clouds at home — Author’s photo

I wrote a bit of a rant yesterday and instead of posting it at my non-religious widowhood group on Facebook as I’d planned, I mistakenly posted it on my Facebook page for everyone to see. I don’t know how I made such a mistake but by the time I realized it there were already dozens of comments from people obviously not in our widowhood group. At this writing there are 97 comments, some of them mine.

This is what I wrote — for my FB group’s eyes only:

I’m faced constantly with friends and family telling me Ed and I will be together when I die, and that’ll be a good thing. Neither one of us believed in anything but darkness when we die, but I’m torn between telling them I don’t believe it or just nodding and keeping my mouth shut. The latter seems dishonest, and it makes me uncomfortable, but at the same time I don’t want to create an issue over life after death.

It’s such a common thing to say to someone who’s grieving, so I doubt it’ll ever end. I guess I’ll just have to put up with it, though it grinds me more and more, the further I get into widowhood.

It’s clear we need to talk about things like this, no matter how sensitive. The thing is, the people who say these things do mean well. Nobody really knows what to say. Nobody really knows what grievers want to hear. We grievers ourselves don’t always know. But here are a few thoughts, after a full day of reading responses to my Facebook outing:

The obvious response is the one meant only to comfort. What could be more comforting than the thought of a pleasant reunion in Heaven’s golden clouds? Somewhere where everyone you’ve ever cared about is waiting for the two of you in the greatest reunion jam anyone can imagine?

Ah, a second chance at life when this one is done! Nobody really dies. They just move on.

Except there are millions of us who don’t believe in an afterlife. To us there is no second chance, and this one stab at life is it. This is all there is. I haven’t believed ‘we’ll all meet again’ since I was a…