Grief Etiquette Article

Grief Etiquette Article


You can read our article about Grief Etiquette featured in the Sarnia Journal below or by clicking on the above picture.

Grief Etiquette

“I know exactly what you’re going through”

“It’s been a year, you should be over it by now”

“They are in a better place”

“I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes”

“Heaven has gained another angel”


As we check in for our weekly ‘Walking with Grief’ group people recall some of the things they’ve been told since losing a loved one. This topic of conversation often comes up and usually leads to the realization that there should be more training in workplaces, schools, and in the general public for etiquette around grief and loss.

The truth is people generally don’t know what to say or do when they are at a funeral or when they see a co-worker or a friend grieving. Silence is uncomfortable for us and we fill these voids with words and sayings that we think will bring comfort to those that are grieving. When we say these things, the impacts can be counter-effective and we miss opportunities to listen, understand, validate and comfort those dealing with a loss. The group’s co-facilitator- Heather Taylor often reminds of us of the acronym WAIT: WHY AM I TALKING? Which sums this up perfectly.

Death is not something we generally talk about but it is happening all around us. For those that are grieving a loss the pain can be so debilitating that you can’t sleep, eat, concentrate, or do anything more than get through the day. The saying “I’m taking things day by day” ring so true for the participants of this group that we often remind each other that just putting one foot in front of the other and walking is a great accomplishment.

As the topic of grief etiquette is not often discussed, here are some practical and useful tips for what to say and do when attending funerals, visiting friends/family and working alongside those who are facing a loss.

  • Attend the funeral/wake/memorial
  • Send flowers/card
  • Make a phone call
  • Make a donation to a charity/research
  • Cook a meal for them
  • Shovel their driveway/Cut their grass
  • Offer to help clean their house or help with arrangements
  • Offer your time and just sit and listen
  • Physical touch and a hug can be a perfect substitute for not saying anything

“I’m so sorry for your loss”
“I’m thinking of you and your family”
“I am so sad for your loss”
“I remember when/I will miss…”
“I don’t know how you feel but I am here to talk/help in anyway I can”
“It’s not ok, it will be different”
“My favorite memory of your loved one is…”
“He/She will be deeply missed”
“I care about you/I love you”

Follow Up:

After the funeral keep in touch, continue to acknowledge their loss, check in and continue to offer words and actions that will support those dealing with a loss

By: Matt Barnes