What NOT To Say When Someone Has Died

Can I please offer this little tidbit of advice about what not to say when someone has died?

When conversing with someone who has just had someone very close to them pass away, PLEASE don’t say the following:

“I know how you feel.”

Don’t say that.

You don’t know how they feel.

What Not To Say When Someone Has Died

Image credit: crookedpicture.wordpress.com

You may have recently lost someone very close yourself, but you really don’t know how they feel. You can’t possibly know how they feel. You have absolutely no way of knowing what’s been going on in their heart of hearts leading up to their loved one’s passing, sudden or otherwise.

While their scenario may be the same as yours was (e.g. you’ve both lost your mother to cancer), there are so many other variables at play, it is quite impossible to “know how they feel.”

I know most of us truly mean those words as help and comfort, but they mostly hurt instead. When someone is in the midst of dealing with the emotions of losing their loved one, this is the last thing they need to hear. No one means to cause harm by saying this, but the truth is, most of us don’t know what to say when find ourselves in the situation of trying to comfort someone in their loss.

When faced with uncertainty, our human nature directs us to go with what is comfortable and what we know. And what do we know best?

Facebook Trending Is Ridiculous — Seriously

So, here is the Facebook Trending list on my News Feed as I hopped on the interwebs this morning:

Facebook Trending

 

Is it just me or is the Facebook Trending list merely yet another noisy and vapid assault on our senses in a crazy busy culture:

  • video gaming enablement,
  • Instagram’s newest celebrity,
  • a fast food social media survey,
  • an amalgam of bands on a late-night variety show,
  • a cable network announcement,
  • a 20-year-old TV show is to be re-distributed,
  • and a date on an actor’s schedule 4 months from now.

I searched in Desktop Help to see how Facebook Trending works:

Trending shows you a list of topics and hashtags that have recently spiked in popularity on Facebook. This list is personalized based on a number of factors, including Pages you’ve liked, your location and what’s trending across Facebook.

Apparently the only factor being used in the algorithm at the time of my screenshot above was the “recently spiked in popularity on Facebook” because the other factors quite simply don’t apply.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the idea of quietness, contemplation, and stillness in one’s life. My faith roots take me back to a lesson I learned in childhood, from the book of Isaiah in the Bible, found in chapter 30, verse 15:

For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”

I want less of Instagram, cable network announcements, social media surveys, and caring about where Neil Patrick Harris will be in the Winter of 2015 (not that I’ve ever cared about his location, TBH).

I want more of this “quietness and confidence”… don’t you?

Another quotation I’ve held onto (at times, dearly) in my life is found in Psalm 23, often quoted at funerals and hospital bedsides (is there a message there):

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.

I want restoration in my soul… don’t you?

Slow down.

Rest.

Be quiet.

As I said, I’ve done more of this lately. It has hinged on knowing that “the Lord is my shepherd,” and because of this, indeed, I do not want.

I’ve been beside those still waters, and it is a daily endeavour to get back there.

I’ve had my soul restored again and again.

The latest stage of this finally not letting my Facebook Trending list bother me so much anymore.

[END RANT.]

The will of God isn’t a special direction here or a bit of secret knowledge there. God doesn’t put us in a maze, turn out the lights, and tell us, “Get out and good luck.” In one sense, we trust in the will of God as His sovereign plan for our future. In another sense, we obey the will of God as His good word for our lives. In no sense should we be scrambling around trying to turn to the right page in our personal choose-your-own-adventure novel.

Kevin DeYoung
Just Do Something (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014)