Chapter 3: How to talk about death

What if I say the wrong thing?

The grief expert says
Cara Grosset, social worker, speaks about preparing for and having tough conversations.(3:22)Video transcript

We have a responsibility not to avoid these conversations. Those with an intellectual disability have a right to know when somebody has died. – Support worker

It can be difficult to know what to say to support someone who is grieving. Sometimes when we try to say something supportive, our words might actually make the person who is grieving feel that their grief is being dismissed or unrecognized. Being supportive often means recognizing the person’s loss and listening to how they are feeling.

Saying the “wrong thing” can happen and is a very common worry but remember that it is human and normal to make mistakes. If this happens, the most important thing is to acknowledge it. Let the person know that you feel that you said the wrong thing, and ask how it made them feel. Keep your communication open. Listen and follow the person’s lead.

Click on the switch buttons below to view examples of what to say and what not to say.

What to sayWhat not to say


Tell me more about [the person who died].

How are you managing?

How are you feeling just now?

What makes you feel better?



They are in a better place.

I know how you feel.

You’ll get over it.

Any statement on any subject that begins with… “at least”