8 Things to Say (and Not Say) When Someone’s Grieving


By Mercedes Kirkel


I thought I was prepared for my mother’s death. I’d seen her declining. I’d talked to her about dying. I didn’t need to heal anything with her. I’d said my goodbyes. I believed she was going to a much better place and that we’d always be connected. And I felt glad for her struggles to be over.


What I forgot about was me.


I’ve had a hard time since my mother died—much harder than I expected. Initially I was in shock. I just couldn’t feel much at all. Beneath that was a feeling that some part of me had been ripped out. And below that was a well of grief. But the first two—the shock and feeling of separation—were so intense and consuming, I was only able to get beyond them and dip into the pool of grief for brief periods, like dipping my toe in water every now and then.


I feel some trepidation in sharing this with you. I’m afraid you’ll judge me for having a hard time with the death of a loved one. You might decide I’m spiritually incompetent, a spiritual laggard—or possibly even a spiritual phony. Perhaps you believe that really spiritual people are beyond feeling grief and sorrow when someone dies, that their spiritual connection to God and all of life is so strong that they only feel the joy of everlasting peace… or something like that.


I have a different point of view. A lot of it has come from Mary Magdalene. Mary calls the orientation toward everlasting peace, eternity, rising “above” the comings and goings of life, etc. the Masculine perspective. It’s the part of us that connects with what transcends our Earthly, 3D realm. Some paths and traditions call this God. But Mary says it’s only one aspect or “face” of God, the Masculine part.


She says there’s also a Feminine “face” of God. We connect with that part when we experience God in and through the manifest world. It’s God incarnate, materialized in endless forms. Experiencing God in this form requires that we open to fully feeling and experiencing the manifest world and our connection to it. That includes feeling loss and grief when a loved one leaves or dies.


Mary says that most of us have a bias toward the Masculine and are underdeveloped in our Feminine. We’ve been trained to see the Masculine as important and the Feminine as the source of our problems in life, and thus something that’s best avoided.


I, too, carry that imprint of avoiding the Feminine. I see it in my difficulty experiencing and allowing my grief. I’m afraid to fully open to my mourning. Which is to say, I’m afraid of the Feminine.


Yet I’ve learned enough, through Mary and my growth in the path she teaches, that I know my way forward is in doing exactly that—opening myself to my grief, merging with it, letting my pain guide me to God, and letting God guide me from there.


Nonetheless, when it’s something as big as my mother dying, I need help and support to do this.


I would love to live in a world where people supported me in going into my grieving. Here are 8 ways I’ve learned that give me the kind of support I long for.


1) When I’m grieving, understand that it’s not about what’s happening to the person who’s died. I may feel completely at peace and even happy about their process, but still feel grief about my loss. Reassuring me about the wonderful place they’re in doesn’t help me with my loss right now. It actually requires me to come out of my grieving process and enter into a more mind-based place that isn’t authentic to what I’m feeling. While I realize that most people are sincerely trying to help me to feel better by focusing on the wellbeing of the one who’s died (saying things such as “he/she is with God now” or “they’re in the light” or “they’re out of their suffering”), it’s not what I need right now. I’ll come to that on my own, when I’m ready, after I’ve dealt with my grief.


2) I don’t want to focus on how good my future relationship with the person will be. I want to be in the present with what’s happening for me now, which is grief and my difficulty experiencing the grief. While imagining having contact with the person in the future does feel consoling and even hopeful, it also distracts me from my grief. I trust that my grief is being given to me because it’s exactly what I need. As Mary teaches, it has an important and necessary gift for me, if I understand how to receive it and make use of it. I don’t want to skip over my grief or suppress it. I want to receive it fully and make the most of its gift.


3) Please don’t tell me to be strong or even that I’m being strong. Either one takes me out of my grieving process, which is where I find my true strength.


4) This is a tough one, but I believe it’s also very important. Please don’t begin by telling me how sorry you are for my loss. Why? Because that’s about you, not me. When I hear that, I often feel I need to take care of you, reassuring you that I’m OK and telling you how much I appreciate your expression. That’s taking me away from my grief.


I’ve learned to hear the expression “I’m so sorry for your loss” as a shorthand way of saying “I’m sad because I’m guessing that you’re sad. I want you to know that I care about your well-being and I’m here for you.”


I like this version a lot better because then I don’t feel like I need to take care of the other person. I then can respond with an authentic “Thank you.”


But it still takes me away from my grieving.


4) What I really want is for you to ask me how I’m doing. This is like shining a gentle, warm light on my grief. It helps me to go beyond my shock and to allow myself to experience the deeper pain of separation and sadness. That’s hard for me to do. When you go there with me, it really helps.


You don’t have to feel what I’m feeling. Just be present with me while I feel it. It’s like holding my hand emotionally. I can’t tell you how much that helps.


5) When I tell you how I’m doing and what I’m feeling, don’t try to fix it or change it. I don’t need fixing or changing. I don’t need reassuring that this will pass, things will get better, all is in God’s hands, etc. I don’t need suggestions that I should rest, exercise, eat, do something nurturing, or anything else. All of those suggestions and beliefs will take me away from my grieving process.


6) What I really want is for you to reflect my feelings back to me. Just that. Help me to experience and open to my feelings. Be with me in that. It’s as simple as “I hear you feel really numb” (or whatever feeling I expressed). You don’t have to be creative and change the words I said. Lots of times that changes the meaning and again takes me out of my process. Just use the words I used. It’s really like being a mirror. It really helps.


7) When you’ve given me as much space as I seem to need or want to express what’s going on for me, then I want to hear how you feel about the loss. I want to hear how you feel about what’s happening for me. I may be open to hearing your ideas for what you think might help me—but please check in with me first and see if I’m open to receiving suggestions right now.


I believe grieving is an essential part of our humanity. It’s a death-rebirth process that grows our heart and our being. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength and depth of loving.


When someone supports me in my process of grieving, they give me a great gift. Then they’re really “being there for me,” in a way I need, in a way that deeply helps.


There’s one last thing I want to add. If you’ve reached out to me during this time, I want you to know that I REALLY appreciate it, regardless of the words you’ve used or the form of support you’ve offered. I hear everyone’s expressions as offerings of care and support and love. Every communication I’ve received has REALLY meant a lot to me and helped me get through a difficult time. So I hope you’ll keep communicating with me—really!


My desire in writing this is to be transparent, to show who I am, what I feel and want, and what helps me. My hope is that this will be helpful to others, too.


©2016 Mercedes Kirkel, http://www.mercedeskirkel.com, All Rights Reserved. Permission is given to share this message as long as the message is posted in its entirety, nothing has been changed or altered in any way, and the post includes 1) the title, 2) “Received by Mercedes Kirkel” beneath the title and above the body of the post, 3) this copyright notice (full paragraph), and 4) Mercedes Kirkel’s website (http://www.mercedeskirkel.com).


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Mercedes Kirkel is a multi-award-winning author and channel for Mary Magdalene and other Beings of Light. Her first book, Mary Magdalene Beckons: Join the River of Love is available at www.marymagdalenebeckons.com. Mercedes’s latest book, Sublime Union: A Woman’s Sexual Odyssey Guided by Mary Magdalene, is available at www.sublime-union.com.

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8 Responses to “8 Things to Say (and Not Say) When Someone’s Grieving”

  • Thank you for these suggestions regarding the loss of a loved one. Our society isn’t trained well in this area.

    Warm regards,

  • Norman Scull:

    I much appreciated your sharing, Mercedes.

    In 1988 my oldest child and only daughter died at age 23 in an auto
    accident while driving alone to work and hitting a pole. I learned of
    her death from our younger brother whilst I was at work. She was my
    first born, arriving 6 minutes before her twin brother. It took me a year
    cycle of seasons and holidays to arrive at a place of acceptance and peace.

    Most recently, my 21 year old grandson was grieving over the election
    results and his dad asked me to call him and speak with him. During our
    talk, I realized I too was grieving and shared my feelings with him, mentioning that my deepest grieving involving a non relative has been hearing the news
    of JFK’s assassination in Dallas.

    I arrived at the place of saying “How are you doing” was the most important thing I could say.

  • Iolani Deva:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. There are so many people in my life that have been experiencing the same thing you are and when this happens I am not sure how to respond or what to say. I usually don’t say anything. I have noticed I hear people say sorry for your loss to this situation a lot and wondered if this was the best thing to say. It just did not feel totally right to me. Now that you have openly shared your deepest most honest feelings, I have learned something valuable. Thank you so much lovely Goddess.

  • Julia Rinker-Miller:

    Dearest Mercedes –

    All transitions are potentially transforming for ALL involved … and my mother’s was no exception … blessing me. So many years in the coming, almost as though my very birth – in Heart’s union here on earth with ‘she’ who stewarded me – began my walk preparing for eventual separation with this same Being.

    Being born, being weaned, becoming ‘Me’ – free from ‘false’ – was all accomplished under the tutelage of this woman. The many ‘pushes and pulls’ of our relationship, were all the in’s and out’s of our breathing as one enterprise; remaining Conscious (or not) was not the point … we somehow simply – DID IT – together in this incarnation!!!

    When my mom, at 94, began her final – slow – walk ‘Inward’ … her hospice nurse-in-chief mused aloud: “It’s like watching a plane sitting on the tarmac … waiting for the fog to lift allowing take-off!” Startled ‘awake’ by the imagery, I instantly found myself entering the plane quickly scanning the aisles for her seat. And there she was, sitting silently and peacefully by that window; the seat by her side left unoccupied. Without a second beat, I slipped into that seat – a part of me ‘left’ forever with my mom.

    Somehow, Dear Mercedes, to look at me in 3D one would see a human who looks full, whole and wholly ‘here.’ What can’t be observed, however, is that there’s an aspect of me gone ‘mia’ to transcend with this Being whose departure from my existence has ALWAYS been unthinkable (and I don’t mean to paint a glossy/rosy picture of daughter and mother who didn’t have their differences – ‘cause we did!) Have I spent much time since in a ‘vale of tears’ mourning? Not really … because, in a way that instantly became immediate upon her departure … we’re still together on our trip as two peas in a pod of our BECOMING.

    It’s my Birthday today … and this sharing is MY precious gift, first to myself, then to you as a sister who, in a certain, subtle way – NEVER – has to say ‘farewell’ to the Beloved she’s called ‘Mom.’

    From My Heart To Yours – Julia

  • What a beautiful love filled response from Julia, above here. I know the feeling of grieving very well and I learned to fully accept it without any resistence, taking good care of myself. What I’ve experienced with the passing over of my mother, is that I found a way to grieve before she died, unexpectedly. To see her move through all the phases gave me an opening to my feelings of sadness and saying goodbye.

    The end of her days were filled with peace, partly for my little gesture to offer her help from the spirit world, with a help of a wise woman. This support, which was a tail of my youthful support of her from between my 15th and 21st age, completed something for me that left me in a feeling of completion and liberation.

    Also, I felt liberated by a certain programming she left in me before she left her physical body. I’ve become known with how to be my own inner father and mother as a process of maturity.

    Therefore I didn’t mourn and I knew she was safe and at peace on the other side. It’s quite unusual and unexpected, I’ve been suprised by it. But to this day, since the year 2006 when my mother died, I feel at peace and lots of love for her. She’s happy and I’m in a good place in my life.

    I was born in a family that turned out to grow to a number of 11 members. I was the healer in that family and I’ve accepted that position.
    I had to learn to connect as equals with all 10 though, a learning curve 😉

  • C. A. Jobe:


    I hear you and I am sad that you are sad and grieving but also grateful for your sharing and suggestions.

    All of us have or will loose beloved family, friends and pets. I am a member of this club having lost my Sister unexpectedly at 37yrs old, my Dad, a few “besties” ( one unexpectedly) and 2 beloved cats.

    The grief from the unexpected loss of my Sister and Work “Bestie” was non-stop and my heart was broken but also “cracked open”. After both losses, I spent my time within and both proved to assist me on my spiritual journey.

    The ones closest were not able to be there for me or chose not too – since I was a mess but I was pleasantly surprised and comforted by unexpected sources. It is interesting to hear others experiences and I truly felt connected & heard.

    Peace to you and all beings

  • Thank you Mercedes to sharing. You reminded me of my own experience when I was knocked off balance by the passing of my mom 7 years ago this past October 3rd. She had been in pain a long time, and I was prepared for her passing, or so I thought. What I did not know was how connected I was to her physical existence.

    I found myself in the throws of grief when I would find myself thinking about asking her a question or telling her something, and realizing she was physically gone. I knew she was with me in Spirit, but that did not help my Body from feeling any better. I wanted my mommy and she was gone.Just writing this statement chokes me up. I don’t think grief ever goes away, it just becomes more manageable with time.

    Loving Light to you,

  • Marcellus:

    I read this two weeks or so ago when you first published this. I am coming back to read it again now because a friend of mine is grieving a special person that just passed away. All of this makes perfect sense to me why you would feel that way and I appreciate your bravery sharing your transparent feelings. You helped one person (me) understand grief better and I’m sure you are helping many, many more. I love you Mercedes.

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