10 Things You Should Never Say to a Widow

It’s easy to blurt out the wrong thing when trying to comfort a mourner. Whatever you do, avoid these awkward, even hurtful phrases.

Don’t say: “Everything happens for a reason”

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This phrase won’t help someone who’s lost his or her life partner feel any better. “Among the most annoying of platitudes are the ones that suggest you needed out-of-order death to learn something,” according to Megan Devine, grief advocate and author of It’s OK That You’re Not OK, on Suggesting that the spouse’s death was part of some preordained plan implies that the widow shouldn’t be devastated by it, as if the loss were a call to self-improvement. Yikes! It might be more helpful to read up on these 22 things a funeral director won’t tell you.

Don’t say: “He’s in a better place”

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“This phrase makes assumptions—about life, death, and the widow’s viewpoint,” Kathleen Rehl, author of Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows, wrote on It presumes spiritual views that the bereaved may not share. “The place she wants him to be is with her no matter how much pain he was in,” according to Bobbi Emel, a psychotherapist focusing on resilience, writing for It imposes the idea that the widow should feel her spouse’s death was a blessing.

Don’t say: “It could be worse”

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Loss can’t be measured on a scale, so the idea that the couple could have had fewer years together or the deceased could have suffered more is not helpful. “This line tends to invalidate your grief and makes you feel selfish or ungrateful for grieving,” Deborah Murphy, a widow and owner of Grieving Angry Widow blog, wrote on Having suffered such a life-changing loss, the bereaved shouldn’t be made to feel her grief is excessive. Get inspiration for a meaningful message from these beautiful poems on loss, love and the meaning of life.

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