We are all just walking each other home. - Ram Dass

Grief Notes: The Cliché Trap

We live in a world that is full of cliches and quaint sayings that we often feel fit the situation that we or someone else is currently dealing with. These phrases are often meant to be humorous or said in a way to emphasize a point trying to be made and roll off the tongue without much thought for their relevance to the current situation.


Cliche, also spelled cliché, is a 19th-century borrowed word from the French that refers to a saying or expression that has been so overused that it has become boring and unoriginal. The French word “cliché” was first used to describe the sound of a printing plate, which prints the same thing repeatedly. Like the original meaning, we can easily fall into the trap of using these phrases over and over again. Doing so is “as easy as pie”. But before we “throw the baby out with the bath water,” we know that cliches are still used often in books, poetry, advertisements, television shows, and movies. Even Shakespeare, in his classic writings, often used clichés, such as “All that glitters is not gold,” “Melted into thin air,” and “Jealousy is the green-eyed monster,” to mention a few. So clichés are not always seen in a bad light.


But how does this relate to those of us who are grieving the loss of a loved one? If you have not already experienced the pain from clichés on your grief journey, you probably will at some point. Well-meaning relatives, friends, and co-workers who don’t know what to say to someone suffering the loss of a loved one often say nothing at all or fall into the trap of using cliches. They fear saying the wrong thing, but when sensing the need to say something, they may say the first thing that comes to mind is a cliché.

Some of the most common clichés are:


  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “Time heals all wounds.”
  • “It’s time to put it behind you.”
  • “They’re in a better place.”
  • “You have to keep busy.”
  • “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

Amid our loss, we can feel abandoned by people because of these or similar statements. We, too, may have said many of the same things to our friends or loved ones over the years. It’s easy to fall into the cliché trap. In the weeks and months to come, be prepared for clichés to be thrown your way. Make an effort to be gracious to those who may say the wrong thing in an attempt to be a comfort or help to you. They may “drive you crazy” but usually have “their hearts in the right place”; they just didn’t choose their words well. Even poor attempts to bring comfort can be appreciated and will help you cherish those who are able to share meaningful words of love and support or who are just there to provide a listening ear. They are “worth their weight in gold”!



Six Week Grief Support Group – Aroostook County

Have you lost a loved one? When someone we love dies, it can feel overwhelming. You may feel alone and that no one understands what you are going through. The truth is that many are walking a similar path. Consider coming to a place where you can talk, grieve, and move forward with people who are also grieving.


A Six Week Grief Support Group will be held for six consecutive Tuesdays, starting March 12, and concluding on April 16. They will be held at AR Gould Hospital in Presque Isle from 6 to 7:30 pm. This group is free of charge and open to anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one, but registration is required, and participants are encouraged to attend all group sessions. This group will be limited to 12 participants, so please be sure to RSVP.


For more information and registration, please contact George McLaughlin at (207) 498-9039 or email at


As your Bereavement Coordinator, I am available by phone for grief support. If you would like to arrange a time to talk or meet one-on-one, please e-mail your request to George McLaughlin at gmclaughlin@ or call me at 207-498-9039. I will get back to you as soon as I can. Our agency toll-free number is also available to you: 1-800-757-3326.