Grief Support Donts

September 25, 2016

Is there anything more awkward than grief? I doubt it. It was uncomfortable for me, and for the people trying to offer their love and support. I’ve heard all sorts of well-intentioned messages since Mark died. I know you’re all worried now that maybe I’m going to mention something you said. Rest assured, if you’re worried, that probably means you’re in the clear. And if you did say something on my list, be confident I don’t really remember who said what anyway. These examples are not to shame anyone, but to provide insight into what helped and what didn’t. The remarks that fell short inspired a “Bless their hearts” response in my mind. I know they tried. I know they meant well. Pre-grief Jodi is guilty of many grief support don’ts as well.

  • Do not under any circumstances talk about remarriage.

The very first week, I found myself on the phone with our insurance company to cancel a policy no longer needed. I had to accomplish something and this was low-hanging fruit. I explained the situation to the office manager. Her response? Advice on opening my heart to my next marriage. Mmmmkay? Just cancel the policy, please. It’s been one week, lady. Ease up. It wasn’t Jake, but her comments and timing were hideous.

  • Now is not the time to share your grief story. That time will come, but not right off the bat.

It’s not that I don’t care about your loss, I do! But give me a minute to soak in our loss. I need a little time to be selfish about it. There’s a time and place for talking about your grief with new grievers. The first weeks, other people’s grief stories were not comforting. Be a comforter, not a one-upper. In time, the shared experiences feel more like support and provide a sense of community. Initially, not so much.

  • If you don’t know the person(s) grieving, please do not mail a letter to their home trying to convert them to your religion.

I know, right?! I didn’t know whether to file a restraining order or laugh. Death brings out helpers and also predators. Don’t be a predator. There’s a better way to evangelize, people. Seriously.

  • If you’re a realtor, financial planner, monument and headstone salesperson, etc. – GO AWAY!

I know this isn’t very extra grace of me, but this is just so terrible. If and when I need you, I’ll call you. Go away. (See “Don’t be a predator.”)

  • Everything happens for a reason”

Please, just don’t.

  • Don’t tell young children they are in charge of anything

My son is not the man of the house now. He is eight. He isn’t the man of anything. He’s a little boy who just lost his Daddy. The last thing he needs is pressure to take care of adult things. And the last thing I need is for my child to think he’s the boss of me. Bless your heart, but no.

  • Disposable pans only

You are so sweet if you brought food, but I hope you didn’t bring it in your favorite pan because you’ll probably never get that back. Disposable pans are the way to go. You don’t have to worry about your favorite dishes and neither do I. Win-win.

  • Casseroles without instructions

Even when I’m not grieving, I’m not a great cook. I need instructions. Specific instructions, like thaw this sucker out before you try to cook it. And then, please tell me how to cook it! What temp? How long? This is what drove me to restaurants for three months. It was too hard. Also, the recipe is a nice touch. I’d like to try to make those delicious recipes again one day. You guys are amazing chefs!

  • Please visit or call, but don’t stay too long

Visitors and phone calls were surprisingly treasured. Before, I always assumed visiting the grieving was intrusive. I avoided knocking on the door or calling because I didn’t want to bother the grieving family. I was surprised to appreciate those who stopped by – even the day after his death. But here’s the thing. I was so tired, overwhelmed, and so beside myself that any visit longer than 20 minutes would’ve been way too long. Keep it beautiful, and keep it brief.

If you’ve experienced loss, chances are you have your own stories. I’d love to hear them. (But let’s show extra grace and be nice about it). Leave me a comment sharing your big grief support don’ts. We might as well laugh about it, right? Because we know most often people are just doing their best, and that’s really all any of us can do.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis

Extra Grace,







You Might Also Like


  • Reply jodi york September 25, 2016 at 11:24 am

    The line about Jake… SO funny! 🙂

  • Reply Wendy September 25, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    I agree, the Jake comment was spot on and hilarious! Although I’m sure not hilarious at the time 🙂 Thank you for sharing these Jodi!

    • Reply Extra Grace Required September 25, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      I actually did find it humorous in the moment as well – so ludicrous I had to laugh.

  • Reply Krista September 25, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Also.. I don’t need to know your preferences about a casket at the visitation. We already made the decision full of our own difficult preferences and if we needed your opinion we would have asked for it a few days ago.

  • Reply Krista September 25, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    I got a very long hug from someone I didn’t know, who, when the end finally came, called me Kristi. Fortunately my brother in law was there and put my feelings into words when he said “that’s an awfully long hug for someone that doesn’t know your name.”

  • Reply Debbie Canavan September 7, 2017 at 1:06 am

    Just three more–I’ve tried to be nice:
    *Don’t tell me, within days of my husband’s death, that “It gets better. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but trust me, it does.” That was not comforting at that point. It was minimizing and dismissive. Oh, he was that insignificant that all will be well in just a bit?!?! Pat, pat.
    *Divorce and death are not the same. Just. Please. Don’t. Both are awful. Both involve the loss of a love, the loss of a dream. But…can we agree they are not the same?
    *Resist the temptation, the overwhelming NEED, to over-spiritualize this at the beginning. Even true things aren’t very comforting initially. I can’t tell you how many times it seemed I was supposed to not feel so bad because “he’s in heaven, after all, and doing fine. He wouldn’t want you to be sad.” Not helpful. Sorry, just not. And, please, I don’t believe he’s an angel now, that God needed him more than me, that God “took” him. He died. He died and God has received him home. He died and God is ever in the business of comforting and loving and redeeming every little thing but…yeah… Extra Grace Required…from me, and definitely, for me!

  • Reply Nikki October 19, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    I am so happy that I found your website! I lost my husband three weeks ago.
    Yes, please, do not tell my son that he is the man of the house. He is 19 but he is still my son!! That was one of the hardest comments to hear from visitors.
    Also, I know people mean well but if I barely know you, please don’t try to interject yourself into our lives. I’m sure the intentions are good… I just don’t have the energy to have virtual strangers visiting.
    Thank you for your writing!! Thank you for giving me a space to vent.!! Your family will be in my prayers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: