The Top 4 Cliché’s You Should Never Use When Someone is Hurting

By on January 26, 2013

By Rita Schulte –

Have you ever experienced a devastating loss, been hurt beyond words, or been in deep emotional or physical pain, and some well meaning person comes along and gives you a one liner like “All things work together for good” or “It could be worse.”

You probably felt you were punched in the stomach—again. Cliché’s are many people’s go to when they don’t really know what else to say or do to provide you with comfort.

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Some cliché’s may carry a measure of truth, but others couldn’t be farther from the truth. While they’re supposed to help us find strength in the difficult situations of life, cliché’s can often leave us feeling empty, frustrated and guilty.

Here are a few you should use with caution:

Time heals all sorrows

I know this one isn’t true because time hasn’t healed mine. Sure, our pain may not be as intense, but no amount of time can heal a heart devastated by the loss of something or someone precious.

You have to be strong

No you don’t. This one carries with it a belief that many of us have learned from our family of origin. If you were told it wasn’t ok to express emotion, or if you grew up in a home where you were ridiculed for showing weakness, it’s easy to see how you could buy into this cliché. News flash: it’s ok to be a hot mess when you’ve experienced loss. It’s normal.

Your loved one wouldn’t want you to be sad

That may be true, but the normal response to loss is to be sad—end of story.

All things work together for good

This is a wonderful Biblical truth, but please be careful when you throw it out there. When someone’s heart is hemorrhaging, that’s probably not what he or she needs to hear on the front end of things.

Most people want to be of comfort when someone is hurting, they may just not know how. Instead of using a cliché, consider this:

Just listen

When someone has experienced a loss, there really isn’t much another person can do to relieve their pain. What the wounded person needs is to express their pain to someone who cares. By being an attuned compassionate presence, you can help a person process their grief by simply being there.


When people are hurting, a gentle caring touch can mean the world. Don’t be afraid to give a hug, hold a hand or even cry with someone.

Show empathy

Empathy means putting yourself in another person’s shoes. It’s feeling their pain. Don’t tell someone you know exactly how they feel— you don’t. You may have good intentions, but their pain is unique to their situation.


Let people who are hurting know you’re praying for them. Tell them often. Don’t be too quick to throw out Bible verses that will make them feel worse about where they are in the grief process. Give others the space to recover in their own time.


When we see someone who is hurting we want to help. That’s why we throw out the cliché’s in the first place. Instead, ask if there is any tangible way we can help. Bring meals, run errands, babysit, or do laundry. Find the need and fill it.

We will all come in contact with people who are hurting and need our love and support. Remember, the key to helping isn’t to fix things; it’s to be an attuned compassionate presence.

Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor in No. Virginia. She hosts a weekly podcast show called Heartline where she talks to the leading counselors and authors in the country about cutting edge topics affecting the lives of people today. Heartline is now airing on 90.5 FM in NC, and Rita’s 1 minute devotional spot, Consider This is airing on 90.5 FM and 90.9 FM in Lynchburg, Va. Heartline will be coming to Christian Life Internet Radio in February 2012.  Follow Rita at for counseling helps and to read the first chapter of her book.





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The Top 4 Cliché’s You Should Never Use When Someone is Hurting