Marcia M. ChamOur tongues get tied when it comes to how to communicate with someone who has experienced a death. Once my husband said, “Congratulations” to a widow he knew well. He wanted to compliment the widow for getting through a long dying process, but his good intentions came out all wrong. And another friend at a wake said, “So glad to be here.”

The most frequent words I hear are, “I know just how you feel.” But that is not true. None of us knows exactly how another feels. All our circumstances are different. We may have some common reactions and feelings, but we don’t know how another feels.

Most of us do not have enough experience with death to know what to say and not say. So here are a few ideas for your crime writers.

If crime fighter would like to ruffle the feathers of the grieving say:

I know just how you feel.

It was his/her time.

God never gives you no more than you can handle.

Stay strong.

You’ll be moving on soon.

Don’t worry, you’ll remarry.

You’re young, you can have other children.

It could have been worse.

Call me if you need me.

You should get out of the house more.

You should put those pictures away.

You should change the voice on your answering machine.

You should get involved with…


If your crime fighter wants a few appropriate words to have him or her say, I suggest the following:

You Mean I Have To Look at the Body by Marcia M. ChamI’m sorry.

I’ll be thinking of you.

Life can seem so unfair, can’t it?

I’m not surprised you are tired, grief is exhausting.

This is your grief, do it in your own way.

There is not right way to grieve.

Try not to compare their grief with others.

Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Listen to the story over and over again.

Talk about the one who died. Use the name.

There are no easy answers, but I’m here for you.

Hug and remain silent.

Be present…that is the greatest gift.

When you are ready, I know of grief groups that I can refer you to.

You can read more about dying and living in my book, You Mean I Have to Look at the Body?! Stories of Dying and Living. It is available on and through my website