AEE 988: How to Connect with a Friend Who Has Lost Someone in English

Have you heard about the suicides of some very public figures lately?

Have you yourself lost somebody to suicide?

Today we are going to talk about a bit of a sad topic, but an important one.

No matter what your language, culture, or background, losing somebody to suicide is always a very tragic thing.

We’re going to look at how loss affects people and what to say or not to say in this situation.

 

We have a question that is perhaps something that you have thought about as well.

 

Hello, Lindsay and Michelle. This is Yuki from Japan.  

I listen to All Ears English while I’m commuting, while I’m walking my dog, while I’m eating with my headphones on because my family watches TV, of course in Japanese.  I am pretty uninterested in any programs, I know it’s not a good manner though…  I feel like listening to all ears English especially after I get tired of listening to news etc so that I can relax and learn at the same time 🙂

Anyways here is my question.  I was watching another English podcast.  They featured a phrase that you can use in a funeral, which was “I’m sorry for your loss.” An American teacher commented that you can say that to colleagues or acquaintances, but not to friends or someone close.  I thought I could say that to anybody including friends. I know other phrases like “My condolences” or  “My thoughts are with you” or even “You are in my thoughts.” Are there any other phrases you can say to comfort someone, especially friends?  

I haven’t thought I would ask you guys any questions.  I’m kinda nervous of thinking if you pick my question and read my email in All Ears English!  Anyway thank you so much for your time to read until the end 🙂 Hope you had a nice weekend!

Yuki

 

It’s All About How You Talk About This Topic

Loss is such a difficult thing, and it’s all in knowing how to talk about it.

We have talked about death in other episodes.

On episode 845, we spoke about America’s obsession with death.

On 608, we talked about how to talk to a friend who has lost someone.

To get back to the question at hand–saying “I’m sorry for your loss” is something that you probably wouldn’t say to friends that you are very close to.

Saying “My thoughts are with you” or “You are in my thoughts” are also good choices as well.  

 

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Showing Your Concern Matters Too

 It’s about what you say, but also how you say it.

You may wish to offer your condolences or your well wishes or thoughts, but you can take it a step further too.

In addition it can be nice to give the person grieving an opportunity to talk about the person that they lost.

A good follow up example is to say something like “What was he/she like?”

This lets them tell you what this person meant to them and share stories as well.

 

There Are Things To Avoid Saying Too

You probably have a good idea of what to say at this point in time. 

Today we want to focus on what NOT to say.

These can be just as important as what you should say, because you never want to offend or cause more upset in this sensitive situation.

Let’s go through a few of these examples so you know what NOT to say. These ideas were presented in an article in Prevention Magazine by Julie Halpert on March 16th, 2017 and then we’ll offer our own thoughts on each idea.

 

  • Instead of saying “I know how you feel”, try saying “I can’t imagine what you are going through.”
    • Though we have all lost people close to us, you don’t know about this specific situation. You may not be sure of the relationship or circumstances, so just keep it simple and sympathetic.
  • Instead of saying “He’s in a better place now”, try saying “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
    • This gets into religion and can be a sensitive subject in general. This doesn’t show your compassion as to what your friend is going through at this time.
  • Instead of saying “She lived a full life”, try saying “What did you love most about her?”
    • It doesn’t matter how long somebody lived, it still hurts the people who lost them. The better example gives your friend an opportunity to talk about the person that they lost too.
  • Instead of saying “Call me if you need anything”, try saying “I’ll be by at noon to take you to lunch and get you out. ”
    • If you say “let me know if you need anything” it can feel like an empty gesture offered by many. If you give them a very specific offer then they may be likely to jump at it. Keeping them busy while they are grieving can be quite helpful too.

 

It’s most important to be there for someone and don’t pretend it didn’t happen.

In moments of grief, whether death or anything else, it’s easy to avoid the topic.

Be there for them and be ready to talk when they need it.

 

Takeaway

You have different ideas of what to say if somebody has suffered from this type of loss.

Don’t avoid the topic, be specific about ways you can help them.

It’s a horrible tragedy, but knowing how to talk to somebody about it is important in any language.

Use these examples so you know what to say and what not to say as well.

This is a good way to get an important conversation going, and you may make a connection that means a lot to that person.

 

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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