April 23, 2024

7 More Effective & Comforting Alternatives than saying “This Too Shall Pass.”


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I recently went to a 10th-day death ritual of a close family member and almost everyone there paid their respects and then said, “Don’t worry. This too shall pass!”


Look, the process of grief is already gut-wrenching. And I should know—I experienced the worst losses of my life in December 2020. But what is equally difficult to deal with are the several extremely well-intentioned comfort phrases that people will share with those who are grieving.

Among the most used phrases to comfort the grief-stricken is: “This too shall pass.”

To paraphrase the oft-quoted cliché, “If I had a nickel for every time someone said this too shall pass’…” well, I would have a lot of money. In all seriousness though, as instinctive and as comforting as it sounds, it really doesn’t help much, especially when someone has just lost a dearly beloved one.

At that moment in time, you can’t even fathom the concept of the passage of time. Of a tomorrow or a day or week after. When I was grieving in December 2020, I genuinely didn’t think I would wake up to see the next day—and I felt like that for all of 2021.

So saying, “This too shall pass” didn’t help at all.

I then started to think about what could be more comforting than this phrase. And this is what I came up with:

Provide Tangible Solutions

What helps me are tangible solutions to issues. Imagine if you were facing financial issues and someone said, “Hang in there! This too shall pass.” Honestly, not helpful at all. What the person would rather have is concrete and practical advice or assistance with budgeting and financial planning instead.

Listen Actively

I recently “broke up” with someone extremely dear to me. It wasn’t a romantic scenario but a friendship one. A mutual friend saw how I was agonizing over losing this friend and dropped the “This too shall pass” comment, but I felt frustrated because while the assurance came from a wonderfully decent place, it felt vague when all I was looking for was comfort. What I would’ve appreciated more at that moment was if my friend had simply listened while I bitched and moaned—maybe even unfairly—and vented at that moment. Actively listening to a person’s concerns without judgment and allowing them to express their feelings and thoughts freely? *Chef’s kiss!*

Validate Emotions and Feelings

During the worst of my grief in 2021, what worked best was when friends validated my emotions. When those around you acknowledge your feelings and reassure you that it’s okay to grieve even though “they have been gone for over 300 days now,” that is life-affirming at a time when all you want to do is go to bed and never wake up.

Offer Practical Support

Another wonderful way to help is to offer practical support. This is what I do for my friends. I simply ask them if I can lighten their workload or alleviate their stress. I offer to go grocery shopping, babysit their kids so they can take a break, take them out to dinner and a movie so they can get a break from the mundaneness of life, or simply be a supportive presence in their lives.

Encourage Self-Care

I also encourage people to pursue self-care and never feel guilty for taking breaks and engaging in activities that help them relax and recharge, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.

Share Experiences (only if asked for)

At appropriate times—and by that I mean, when asked for—I share personal experiences that are similar to what they are going through. This can be tricky though. Nothing was more irritating to me than when people made my grief their own; it almost felt like they were hijacking my tragedy and making it their own even though I knew that they were trying to help. So with this one, I wait until I am asked; then I share my experiences dealing with stress, loss, and grief and how I managed to overcome challenges. Knowing that they’re not alone in their struggles can be comforting and reassuring.

Provide Reassurance and Empathy

A hug, a squeeze, a genuine “I am always here when you need to talk” or “How can I help?” can do more than literally anything else. Providing reassurance, expressing empathy and support, and reiterating how much you believe in them, their abilities, and their strength is key. Tell them that you will be there to catch them if they fall. Knowing that they have someone who is their cheerleader goes a long way in reassuring them.

By offering genuine empathy, validation, and practical support, you can help the person feel heard, understood, and supported during times of stress and overwhelm.

What about you? Do you agree we should retire the phrase, “This too will pass?” Let me know in the comments!


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