Updated: Jan 24, 2020
I recently joined a group of people that are deeply misunderstood. In a world that tries its absolute hardest to bypass the pain and denial of death until it’s on the front doorstep, it is not easy to navigate your feelings, and all the awful things people say to you when you are grieving a significant loss.
The majority of people say the wrong things to a grieving person because we are not taught to speak openly about death and dying and the aftermath of it. That being said, I did not understand how much grief changes a person, what it does to families, or how isolating and lonely it can feel when everyone goes back to their lives — the world continuing as is, but your whole life got spun on its head.
I don’t know why some grief statements don’t land well with me. I am at the beginning of the worst grief I have felt in my entire life, and since I am currently experiencing the gut punches that come along with it, I thought I would highlight some common statements and things we do when faced with a grieving person.
Do not be hard on yourself if you have said any of the following statements. I am writing this with the understanding that grieving loss is not only one of the hardest things to experience, but also challenging to support someone through.
Here are a few statements that have been thrown my way after recently and tragically losing a dear friend, and my dad being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and having died five months after. In no particular order.
The acknowledgment of pain followed with a but,
“But, you will be helpful for other grieving people.” Although this statement is true, if I opened up to you about how hard and painful losing my dad and friend have been, and you roll in with, “I know, but…”, stop yourself there. I don’t need a silver lining. I need space held for me to be seen and heard. It doesn’t help, nor am I in any shape to hear how my grief is going to help others when I am deeply entrenched in mine.
“I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
I want the people that love and care about me to imagine what I am going through so that I can feel safe sharing how hard things are right now. When someone says to me, “I can’t imagine,” it feels like it is an end statement, something we are taught to say, and takes the focus off the griever who needs support. I finally got the courage to say this doesn’t feel good to me, and one family member came back with “I am just trying to help,” and then stopped messaging me back. This is sometimes the result of a grieving person asking for a better way to feel supported, scared to do so, and worried about the outcome because the griever knows full well to hang on to the ones who do give a shit enough to check in on you. This is why grief feels isolating and so damn lonely at times. We seem to lack useful tools to stay connected in grief. Replacing “I can’t imagine” with “I don’t know what you are going through, and would you like to talk about it?” feels more supportive.
I wish I could bring “dead person” back for you.
This is not a reality. Yes, this was said to me about my dad. I was too tired to say anything but, thank you. This one has stuck out in my mind. You cannot bring back my dead dad, and I do not feel better when you say that. In fact, it makes me feel awful.
They are in a better place.
Ok, yes, sure my dad isn’t suffering anymore, but it’s not a better place because I am not there with him, and he isn’t here with my family anymore. Let’s just not with this one.
There is a time and place for “!!!!” and emojis, but this ain’t it.
We now communicate hard emotions over text; grief is no different. This one irks the crap out of me. I am sorry for your loss!!! Broken heart emoji, sad face emoji. To me, grief feels devalued when people use this in text messages. Maybe it doesn’t for others.
“I know exactly how you feel” and launch into a story about their own loss and grief.
Although this is done to form a connection and understanding, some people can take it a little too far and start to reminisce about their own grief and loss, the attempt to connect is lost. I do appreciate when people let me know they have “been there” or “