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“All who wander are not lost.”


“It was just his time.”

No matter when our loved one dies, young or old, we grieve. When older people die we acknowledge and can accept the loss a little easier, I think. We express our condolences and know that the person that died has had a long and hopefully, good, life. Most of us can deal with that.

When younger people die, it’s often shocking to us.  Even if they’ve been ill for a while, have struggled with a chronic illness or a sudden one, like cancer.  Especially shocking is the death of a person that appears healthy and then suddenly is gone.  A heart attack, an aneurysm, an accident.  Just like that, gone from our lives.

And we often struggle with what to say, how to console those that loved the deceased. Sometimes, we offer condolences that try to help rationalize why they died.

Like, “It was just her time.” Or, “He is in a better place.” Or “God needed another angel.” Or, the very ambiguous, “There is a reason for everything.”

These rationalizations are often spoken to the loved one’s family at the wake or services. They are repeated as the grieving mourn in the month ahead.

I’d suggest we not repeat them at all, not anymore. Ever.

From my personal experience of losing my Mom when I was 14, they are hurtful, not helpful. I described how these words made me feel at the time in the book I recently authored, We Lost Her, in this way:

“People said things like, “She’s in a better place,” “She’s with him in heaven,” “It was her time to go home.” All that was just crap.  Her place was with us, to raise her seven kids, not to leave us alone with Dad.  How were we ever going to get to college and be normal kids?  Dad loved us, but we needed Mom.  God had lots of other angels – He didn’t need her.”

The people that were helpful took actions to help. They held us in their thoughts and prayed for our family. “You are in our thoughts and/or prayers.” That is a much more helpful expression of your well-intended condolence. Then, follow up and hold those that are grieving in your prayers, or if you are not prayerful, hold them in your thoughts each day. Hold them up to have a day that moves them forward on their grief journey.

I like this little poem that expresses the sentiment:

Last night I was at the Okawville Golf Course restaurant (that has very good food, by the way – their salad bar is so fresh, yum) and my friend, Debby, who knows I volunteer with Heartlinks, said, “Our waitress lost her husband suddenly and is struggling.” I thanked her for letting me know.  After the tables had cleared out I said to the waitress, “Debby told me your husband died recently, I can’t imagine how hard that is.” She teared up a little and said, “It is, and I’m worried for my seven-year-old daughter, too.  She was with me when we found him.” 

We talked for a little while and I let her know she would be in my prayers. I gave her a card that has Heartlinks Grief Center information on it and let her know they are there for her and that we were starting a Grief Support Group in Washington County soon. I let her know I would bring some information for her on the Grief Support Group and other materials on children’s grief and Heartlinks.

I resisted the urge to say “I know how you feel” or “It must have been his time.” There was nothing I could say, listening was the most important thing she needed.  I’m learning.

My challenge for you today, dear reader, is to listen and be present for someone you know is grieving. Like the poem says, “You don’t need to say a thing. There is nothing you can do.”

If you’d like a presentation for a group you belong to on “Never Say These Six Things” please contact Lisa at the Heartlinks Grief Center office at to arrange a speaker.

Be Blessed,


Ellen Krohne, author of We Lost Her, available on 

Heartlinks Grief Center volunteer and Family Hospice board member

“We Grow Stronger Together”

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