21 Things to Say Instead of ‘Time Will Heal’ to a Loved One

Updated

We understand how difficult it is to reassure someone who has suffered loss or tragedy. It’s hard to know what to say, and everything you think of seems to sound too formal, trite, or overused. 

You may feel tempted to tell your hurting friend that “time will heal.” In fact, you may believe this to be true based on your own experiences. But before you share this sentiment with a friend, consider why he may have objections from hearing this phrase.

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For one thing, someone who lost a family member may be worried about forgetting the nuances of the person—their voice, scent, and laugh. Your friend doesn’t want to hear that “time will heal” because that sounds like you won’t think about your loved one as much in time.

Also, most therapists and mental health professionals remind us that grief isn’t something that we “get through.” The Center for Grief Recovery’s website tells us, “The passage of time may take the edge off of acute pain, but it does not heal pain. On the other hand, time can be used well for healing purposes. When time is used well, in terms of healing wounds, then it is because we do something specific with and within it. We take time and shape it in order to do inner work. It is inner work coupled with courage and honesty that heals all wounds.”

Here are alternatives to say instead of “time will heal” when a friend loses a loved one, suffers heartbreak, or experiences another type of tragedy.

What to Say Instead of ‘Time Will Heal’ After Someone Loses a Loved One

What do you say to someone who lost a loved one? There are many things you could say to help a grieving friend. Here are some other phrases to say to a person at a visitation, write on a sympathy card, or post on a social media page. 

Avoid telling your friend that they will “get over it.” People don’t get over the loss of someone they love.

1. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

You may argue that this phrase is overused. People choose this phrase because it clearly and concisely expresses how they feel.

2. “I know this is hard.”

If you have had to greet people at a visitation for a loved one, you know how mind-numbingly difficult it can be. Whisper this to a friend who you know is just trying to keep it together.

3. “Cherish your happy memories.”

Instead of telling someone that they will feel less pain in a few months, years, or decades, remind them of all the good times they experienced with the person they lost.

4. “I’m here for you when you are ready to talk.”

Your friend may be too overwhelmed with planning a funeral to be able to sit down for a cup of coffee. Remind her that you are always available.

5. “I don’t know what to say.”

No matter how old you are or how many funerals you have attended, it is difficult knowing what to say to someone whose life has changed so drastically. Sometimes, you just need to admit that you are at a loss for words.

6. “‘It has been said, time heals all wounds. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.’ —Rose Kennedy”

Consider sharing a healing quote with your friend, like this one from Rose Kennedy. It may seem like a harsh statement to share with someone who has lost someone, but at the same time, it expresses a truth that your friend probably knows in their heart.  

7. “My sincerest sympathies, friend.”

It is always appropriate to offer sympathy to someone who suffered a loss. 

What to Say Instead of ‘Time Will Heal’ After a Loved One Experiences Heartbreak

Did your friend recently suffer through a breakup or a divorce? Some people who have been through a divorce compare it to the pain associated with losing someone to death.

Even if you may not want to tell a friend who lost a mother that “time will heal,” it may be appropriate to use this phrase regarding a breakup. Here are some alternative words of comfort to tell to your heartbroken friend.

8. “You are allowed to be sad.”

Some people try their hardest to “put on a happy face,” no matter the situation. They may feel that showing sadness is a sign of weakness. Remind your friend that feeling sad at a breakup is appropriate.

9. “You won’t always feel this way.”

Your friend may forever feel regret about a lost relationship, but hopefully, the sadness will not be as poignant over time.

10. “I’m thinking about you.”

This phrase is perfect, no matter the situation. It works when a friend suffers a breakup or when another friend loses a sibling. 

11. “Take it one day at a time.”

A person who is going through a particularly difficult time may need to take it one hour at a time. 

12. “You can’t control other people’s choices.”

We would all be a little less stressed if we believed this statement. Instead, we erroneously think that we can fix people or control their actions.

13. “You can handle this.”

This statement tells your friends that what they are going through is hard, but they have the necessary tools to survive.

14. “‘Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.’ —Tori Amos”

Share an insightful quote with your friend whose heart was broken. Remember, it is never wise to bash the ex of a friend. When your friend ends up getting back together with the ex, they’ll remember what you said.

What to Say Instead of ‘Time Will Heal’ After Another Tragedy 

Did your friend lose a job? Go bankrupt? Have a bad diagnosis? Lose property in a natural disaster? If you follow the news, you know that there’s a lot that can go wrong in the world. How do you reassure someone, when you know what they are going through is hard?

Here are some phrases to consider.  

15. “I’m praying for you.” 

If you and your friend share the same spiritual beliefs, they may feel comforted knowing that you are praying for the situation. Of course, if you tell someone you are going to pray, actually do it. 

16. “Can I bring you some coffee or a meal? Give you a ride to treatments?”

Do you want to help someone through a difficult time? Do something! You may not be able to take the stress away, but you can improve the situation for the time being.

17. “I’m sorry you are going through this difficult time.”

Does your friend need to vent? Listen to your friend’s tale of woe. If you are a good friend, you can put your own troubles aside for a bit and focus on the difficulty in your friend’s life. They’ve probably been there for you in the past, right?

18. “I would fix this if I could.”

Do you have a friend who always wants to offer advice? Does it drive you crazy? Instead of telling your friend how to manage her trouble, why not just listen? 

19. “I want to help.”

Are there things that you can do to help your friend? First, ask for permission to help. Like we said before, they may just need you to be a sounding board.

20. “I’ll check in with you tomorrow.”

Even if your friend doesn’t need help today, that doesn’t mean that she won’t need help tomorrow (or a week from now.) Keep checking in with a friend who is going through a tragedy. 

21. “Tell me everything.”

More than anything, your friend wants you to listen. We all want to be heard and have what we say taken at face value. Most people don’t want to hear the advice on how the situation could have been avoided. 

Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds

As much as we would love it to be true, time doesn’t heal all wounds. You will still miss your loved one ten years from now. That’s part of the human experience—we feel sad when someone dies.

For some people, the pain changes. We love this quote by Victorian author George Eliot. She (“George” was a pseudonym) wrote, “She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.”

If your friend is ready to hear this sentiment, consider sharing. Let your friend know that we only feel grief when we have felt love. So, let grief be your companion. Don’t try to be healed from it. 


Sources

  1. “Does Time Heal All Wounds?” Center for Grief Recovery and Therapeutic Services. griefcounselor.org/does-time-heal-all-wounds/

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