We must start thinking before speaking
Do you know someone who is grieving? Do you want to help them but you have no clue what to say to ease their heartache? In the grief recovery program that I offer, one of the things we address in the beginning of the course is how ill equipped we really are to help others with loss. Has anyone ever said to you, “I know how you feel?” Yep, me too, let me take a guess, it didn’t help you either. When you have experienced a loss such as divorce, a death, a loss of job, or any other major event and someone says, “I know how you feel,” it does nothing to ease the person who is hurting. The reason is because each of our relationships are unique. There can never be any exceptions to this because not one person can possibly know how it is that you feel and what your relationship entailed.
If you recently loose your father and I have already lost my father, I have no right to tell you, “I know how you feel.” A similar loss is exactly that, a similar loss. We both have our very own unique relationships with our father’s and what we share is a similar loss not similar feelings. Let’s say for example, my father was self-absorbed, childish, and abandoned me when I was nine years old and your father was supportive, loving, and a caretaker, would you “know how I feel?”
All relationships are unique, so we must let people feel how they feel.
We go on to teach in grief recovery how so many of us have grown up fearing feelings. Can you look back on your childhood and recall times that you were told to keep your feelings to yourself?
Perhaps you heard, “Big boys and girls don’t cry.” One I know that I have heard a few parents saying when I was growing up was, “stop that crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” It is likely that these parents are not insensitive assholes, that they are simply passing on what they have also learned as a child and growing up in a society with little understanding of grief.
Here are a few more examples that you may have heard growing up: “Get a hold of yourself.” “You can’t fall apart.” “Cry baby, cry baby.” “Pull up your big girl panties.” “Suck that lip in.”
Emotions and pain make people uncomfortable. How many times have you tried to express how you were feeling to someone and they quickly changed the subject? I can recall three situations before I have even had a chance to process the question. This happens all the time, emotions and grief make people uncomfortable.
Grief recovery also teaches us about the intellectual responses that we often hear and say to someone who is grieving. Such As: “Be thankful you have another daughter.” “Your father’s in a better place.” “We all die.” “He led a very full life.” “God only gives us what we can handle.” “Just be grateful he lived as long as he did.”
It’s true we have all heard them and some of us have even said them to the grieving. Intellectual comments do not heal a broken heart. When we use intellectual comments, although they maybe true, they are unhelpful. We have simply been taught wrongly. With the right knowledge and understanding we can do better to help those who are grieving.
Grief is the normal and natural response to loss, so there is nothing wrong with a person who is grieving. Also, grieving people are not broken so they do not need you to fix them. A person who is grieving needs to be listed to without analysis, criticism, or judgement. So what are some things that you could do or say to someone who is grieving? *Be a shoulder *Be a heart with ears *Ask what happened *Do not analyze, judge, or criticize *If a mutual loss, share your feelings on the loss (be an example) *Ask, is there anything that you wish to talk about *Ask, do you have things you wish you could have said or done differently *We can say things like: “I can’t imagine how you feel,” “I don’t know what to say,” “Your feelings are normal,” “ Take all the time you need”
Want to learn more? Please check out my article on Grief & Recovery .
We do not have to walk alone in our grief. If you want to learn more about grief recovery, please reach out to me. I would be honored to take this journey with you.
Cathleen xx Email: email@example.com