Learning the Language of Loss

Even though loss is universal (meaning that everyone will eventually experience it), we still struggle with talking about our own loss as well as helping others with theirs.


Whether you are the one experiencing a great loss in your life, or you are trying to help someone going through loss, finding the right words to say can be a real challenge. What can you say? What should you say?

For the times I have experienced loss, I actually feel like a LIAR. Why? Because whenever someone asks me how I am doing, I automatically say, “I’m fine.” Or when a friend or loved one is experiencing a major loss in their life, I usually want to say, “I understand” or “I’m there for you.”

Below are some basic steps for talking with others about their loss:

-First, most who experience a major loss in their lives, to some extent, feel less safe. Life is no longer fair or just. Do what you can to ensure that s/he will be safe.

-Second, if the person trusts you, they will want to talk with you. However, if they don’t trust you, don’t try to force communication. A sense of great loss threatens trust, and pressuring someone to talk about their loss will only lead to them trusting you less.

-Third, focus on their needs, not what you need/want to say. Two people who experience the same event (such as a loss of a parent) will have two completely different experiences. Don’t assume that just because you went through the same loss event that you know how they feel or what they need.

Do you have any other recommendations for helping a person through loss? Share them below!

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