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How to Help What to Say and Not Say


"Listening is not just etiquette. It's a way of loving, honoring and respecting others. Listening is a way of bonding and connecting. It's a way of sharing ourselves and our humanity."
  ~~ From the book "One."

What to Say

  • "Can you tell me what happened?"
  • "I’m so sorry."
  • "This must be difficult for you."
  • "I don’t know what to say."
  • "Everyone grieves differently."
  • "It’s normal to feel____________under these circumstances."
  • "It’s OK to feel____________."

What Not to Say

  • "I know how you feel."
  • "Don’t feel____________."
  • "It will be better tomorrow."
  • "You can always rebuild."
  • "At least you’re not hurt."
  • "What you need to do is____________."
  • "Don’t cry."
  • "He’s out of his pain."
  • "He’s in a better place."
  • "Calm down."


  • Speak with the survivor in brief sentences. Don’t go on and on.
  • If you have nothing to say, say nothing.
  • Don’t say things that attempt to "make things better" or that try to lessen the survivors pain.
  • Use tentative words like
    • "Perhaps"
    • "Maybe"
    • "You might"
    • "Have you considered____________?"
  • Don’t use words like...
    • "You should...."
    • "I want you to..."
    • "If I were you..."
    • "Don’t____________."
    • "The best thing for you to do is..."