clicheDid you ever have a paper returned in English class with a red mark through a phrase and the notation “avoid clichés?” Imagine this red line when you are talking with someone who is grieving.

A cliché is a phrase that once had meaning but has been overused and now has lost its meaning. We use clichés in our daily language as a way of making conversation or coding information in a short form.

Grief clichés abound. “I know just how you feel.” “Life goes on.” “She is in a better place.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “Time heals all wounds.” There are dozens more.

Some clichés communicate an expectation for grief to come to an end. Some suggest that grievers should repress their feelings of loss. Other clichés minimize the mourner’s feelings by assigning a larger theological meaning to the death.

All grief clichés are a “fix it” approach to the pain of loss. Come to the mourner in a spirit of condolence, whose Latin root means “to suffer together.” Sharing in sadness is what is needed, not a cliché.

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Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in grief counseling. For 35 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families in his private practice. Dr. O'Malley has recently published a book, "Getting Grief Right" about grief recovery.

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