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10 Things Never to Say to a Sad, Grieving, or Depressed Person

Some pieces of advice are enough to send any upset person over the edge.

We’re all familiar with those eyeroll-worthy clichés thrown at us when we’re going through a rough patch. Whether you have lost a loved one, undergone a painful divorce, or you just can’t cope with life’s sour lemons, it seems everyone always has an opinion about what you should be doing to fix the situation, whether you welcome such advice or not.

These pearls of wisdom for the most part are useless, and can set back the grieving process, not to mention, be downright insensitive, offensive and inappropriate. It’s not that folks are trying to be hurtful; rather they lack tact or are somewhat unskilled when it comes to delivering words of support, often because they just don’t know what to say.

According to Nancy Weil, a grief specialist and director of grief support at Mt Calvary Cemetery Group, the only two things people really want to hear when they’re suffering are, “I am sorry for your loss,” and “I will keep you in my thoughts.”

“The rules of grief are simple. If it is not harmful and it’s not illegal, you’re allowed to grieve in any way you want. People will tell you how you should grieve because it may have worked for them, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. At the end of the day, there is no right way to grieve,” Weil told AlterNet.

Sometimes just being present with the person who is experiencing hardship can be the most powerful tool of all…and knowing when to shut your trap. Weil explains:

“We all need hope and something to cling to in difficult times but often those giving advice really just want the grief-stricken person to revert back to the way they were before. In reality, experience changes us and we’re never going to be quite the same again. But that’s okay—it’s part of a healing process. While grief may change you, it doesn’t mean it will be for the worst. Joy will come again.”

Consequently, phases like pull yourself together or things could be worse are more likely to drive someone off the rails than encourage them to open up to discuss their problems.  

Here are the most unhelpful pieces of advice that should never be uttered again by anyone, period.

1. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Really? Does it? This trite expression tells us to believe that there is supposedly a bright side to all negative situations, offered as a gesture of hope. Yet, aside from being a dubious metaphor, it’s not even figuratively accurate. Not every cloud has a silver lining—it depends entirely on whether the sun or moon is emitting light behind the cloud to create that silver outline effect. So, before throwing out this erroneous expression to your tearful friend, ask yourself, "Will this person benefit, even slightly, from falsely assuring him/her that circumstances will eventually improve, when in fact I haven’t a clue what the future holds?" The answer will naturally be no, in which case, you will be eternally grateful you held back when your friend calls you the next day to tell you she got hit by a bus.

2. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Ah! The cliché that mothers and friends alike love to regurgitate five seconds after a painful heartbreak to assure you there's an abundance of men and women out there swimming in the fish tank called life just waiting to be caught by you.  Take your pick, sweetheart! Here’s some advice for y’all! It’s no consolation knowing another potential fish may be out there looking for you, when the only focus you have right now is on that bastard piranha who just shattered your heart into a million pieces. A newly brokenhearted individual is not interested in fishing for love…comprende? Sure, there may be plenty of other fish in the sea, but as far as you’re concerned, you’re not anywhere near the sea; you’re in the desert, alone! As the infamous meme goes.

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