Help: Someone Died!! What Do I Say And Do?

I posted this on Facebook on November 17, 2015 and within a day it had been seen by over 1 million people and shared over 6k times. So I figured it was time to put it in a blog so it can be referred to again and again.

You want a simple and quick list to review when the time applies to you and yours…..here it is.

Let me give a few tips for those who don’t know how to be there for friends who are grieving.

#1 – RUN TO THEM

Your first instinct is going to be to give them their space, WRONG ANSWER.  Please don’t run away from them, go to them as fast as you can and keep going to them for years to come.

#2 – Say the name of the person who passed and never stop saying it

Everyone is afraid to say the name of the deceased as if they never existed.  This is one of the most painful experiences for nearly all grieving people.  We never want to forget them so keep saying their name forever. 


#3 – Don’t say, “They are in a better place” or “God needed them more” or “God only gives you what you can handle”

These platitudes are just bullshit (excuses my language) and they don’t help at ALL. Even if the survivor is a person of faith I still find in most cases that these sentence do not offer any peace for a very long time. Maybe, MAYBE in several years time these platiudes will offer some comfort but don’t be surprised if they never do.

#4 – Don’t tell them to “move on” or “get over it”

Ugh, where do I start.  Those who live with loss do not MOVE ON….we MOVE FORWARD and in fact we have no other choice. Daily we takes steps to move our life forward but we never forget the person who passed or the life we shared.

#5 – Don’t ignore them thinking they need their space

For the love of all that is good – please don’t ignore the grieving.  Take them to a funny movie, call them and offer to come over and hang for coffee, invite them to dinner.  Sometimes they will say yes and sometimes they will say no but please don’t stop asking!  There is no time frame either, so keep asking long after THE YEAR that society allows someone to grieve.

#6 – Don’t say, “At least you had love” or “At least they lived a long life”

Yep, no help.  NONE.  In fact, down right hurtful.  There is no AT LEAST.

#7 – Don’t ask what they need – just go do something for them

People who are grieving are often lost and a shell of a human themselves.  If I’m being honest, they don’t know what they need in life with the exception of their their loved one back. Just show up, take them dinner, babysit their kids and let them go get a massage or a good cry.  Just let them be NORMAL for a few minutes.

#8 – Don’t expect them to EVER be the same

EVER.  Once you grieve you are changed for LIFE! Never say, “I miss who you were before they died” because who they were died when their person died.

#9 – Don’t be surprised or judgmental about anything they do

We all grieve in our own way, yet nearly every grieving person I know has been judged for their process. See my blog: Widowhood and the Glass House of Grief

#10 – Don’t say “I know how you feel”

Oh my, this one will get you in REAL trouble.  I’ve heard it all from, “my goldfish died when I was 4” to “my friends grandma died 4 years ago and I know how you feel.”  Listen, I’m very sorry for your grief but you do not know how I feel after the father of my 2 young kids and my partner died.  See my blog: Widowhood and the Dangers of Grief Comparison

#11 – Don’t Make People Replaceable

Somehow in our society we believe that if a widow/widower remarries or starts dating or if a parent has another child – that they are somehow ALL BETTER.  What a crock of crap.  Listen, people are not replaceable and love is not mutually exclusive.  Loving one person does not replace the love you had for the other person who has passed on.  See my blog: Dear Widow Police

#12 – Don’t stop saying their loved ones name 

Oh, did I repeat that one, my bad.  THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S REALLY FREAKING IMPORTANT. Six years later and I still want to hear about MITCH. Don’t worry, you saying their name does not remind us of our loss – we never forget.

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Michelle Steinke-Baumgard is a author, international speaker, fitness coach, mother and a widow. After losing her husband Mitch in 2009 she turned to exercise as an outlet for grief and a way to handle stress. Michelle found it so powerful that she eventually quit her corporate job to become a fitness trainer. Since then Michelle has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, contributed to articles for Prevention Magazine, The Huffington Post, and countless other media outlets. In addition to her virtual training business, Michelle recently launched her own nonprofit focused on helping widows and widowers complete bucket list dreams to honor their late spouse while moving boldly into their future. You can find out more about Michelle’s training programs at: 1fw Training

15 thoughts on “Help: Someone Died!! What Do I Say And Do?

  1. If I may be so bold to add #13: Never say “you’re so strong, I’d never be able to handle that.” So, you’re insinuating you love your man/woman/partner so much more than I loved mine?!? And strength has nothing to do with it. It’s called survival.

  2. Bring food. They will have friends and relatives coming to pay their respects. They’re not going to feel like cooking for themselves(much less all the people who are in town for the funeral). Clean something, pick up dishes. wash dishes. If someone brings a dish that is not disposable–make sure that it is clearly marked so that it can be returned to them. Pick up trash. Take out trash.

  3. I lost my husband suddenly eighteen years ago. Everything you say is so true, just keep moving. Keep doing, even if you make mistakes, just keep doing. I have a very sweet man in my life now, I wasn’t looking, just kept my heart open. I love him dearly. Even so, yesterday while I was looking through some old pictures, out of the blue, I could feel my late husband’s presence as if it were yesterday. Still happens sometimes, I still miss him so much, but am very grateful ive had the strength to live and love again. Ill always love him but thank God we have the ability to love more than once. I am very fortunate. if I can be happy again, so can anyone, it’s just a different happy.

  4. i love your Face Book posts. I am so sorry for the loss of your Mitch. I lost my Dave seven months ago today. We were married 52 years. I read your post and I feel hopeless because I am not young, fit, and I have no young children. I am not able to be adventurous like you. I envy that. I will be 70 in a few weeks and I want so much to build a new life for myself but I don’t know where to begin. I did join a grief support group and struck up a conversation with a nice man. We were starting to become friends when he died too. It was like a kick in the stomach and now I feel so lost all over again. Do you have any ideas or suggestions for me? Thank you Michelle. I love how you are living your life. Maybe there is hope for me too.
    Janie

  5. Thank you for posting this blog, I lost my husband to an accident three and half months ago and I know how hurtful some words can be even though people think they are being kind. This is the first evening that I have been alone since it happened and I needed to read this.

  6. We should connect. My life partner passed away 3 years ago. I will never stop talking about Tag, and I hope you always talk about Mitch. xoxo I’m so sorry for the love you lost.

  7. This is a wonderful post! Many people do not know what to say or do for a grieving friend. The answer is to just be there and perhaps offer a hug or a dozen. One hug or gentle presence is worth a thousand words.

  8. Thank you for telling us what we need to know!! We have been doing it wrong for so long–I recently took stamps to my friend who just lost her second son because I know she will need them for the thank you notes she will be sending out–hopefully I can help her with the addresses on those when she writes the notes herself. I also have found that paper products are a great gift when there is a loss–I take paper plates, dessert plates, cups, bowls, napkins, forks, knives and spoons and plastic glasses to the house when I go see the people who have lost a loved one. They can use them now or later so it is a lasting gift with no expiration date!

  9. I just lost my husband of 42 years in May of this year.He was my best friend and soul mate! I am really missing him so much. My heart hurts all of the time. Thank you for sharing!!

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