I was struggling a little with what to write about this week and I happened on several articles on what not to say to a grieving person. This is probably one of the most discussed topics in support groups everywhere. When I attended my first support group meeting, I expected naively for everyone to just be sad. Turns out there are a ton of other emotions that go with grieving.
How do you comfort someone who has just lost a loved one, a piece of their heart. The norm is to feel awkward and ill prepared to come into contact with someone fresh on the grief train. Hugs always work, but people generally feel obligated to talk. Just don’t… unless it is to say “I can’t imagine.” or “I’m here for you.” Do not ever say “I know how you feel.” because you don’t. Honestly, even if you had a similar loss, you don’t know how they feel. You only know how you feel and how you felt with that loss. Relationships are complicated and just because someone is married, it doesn’t mean losing a spouse is going to affect everyone the same. Just because you are a parent, doesn’t mean you feel the same feelings about the loss of a child. The death of a parent can be challenging, as those relationships are dynamic and ever changing.
This is especially true for child loss. There can often be issues with the parent-child relationship that you know nothing about. Often there are extremely difficult family dynamics that are present making the loss even more complicated. In cases where there is a stillborn or a baby who never gets to term, there can be underlying health issues, infertility etc. This is not information that is easily shared and can be very painful in itself.
Statements like “He’s in a better place.” falls short of comfort. The indication is there is a better place other than with me. This increases the pain and has no place in “comfort language”. Now you may be thinking of being in Heaven, if you have faith, but we are here and this is where we want them to be. Some don’t have faith as an option so this could sting even more for them.
‘He isn’t suffering anymore.” Fact, but not helpful. Now I am suffering in a way I could not have imagined, so although this is true, not “comfort language”.
‘You have other children.” Fact, but not helpful. I am fully aware of my other children 24 hours of everyday, because they are suffering too. If you are a young family that loses a child, you have to maintain and still gets the kids to school and activities, prepare meals, and above all you are challenged with helping them to grieve. It’s a tall order and frankly I can’t imagine. With older siblings, you have to help them navigate the loss without making them feel like their “before” life was better for you than the “after the loss” life. This can and does make them feel insignificant and devalued. Speak to any grieving sibling and they will tell you the truth, but you have to be willing and ready to hear it.
‘You can have other children’” Fact (in most cases), but not helpful. One child doesn’t replace another, no way, no how. Each child has a place and that place is their sacred place in your heart and in the family. Even those born sleeping hold that sacred place. Don’t ever take that away.
“God needed an angel” and “God picked another flower”. Just don’t. Not “comfort language”.
The famous “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”. Too abstract to call it a fact, but “not helpful nonetheless “. I saw a meme that added “by now I can bench press a Buick.” This became my mantra. I think I’m going to make a t shirt with this on it because now there have been a lot of Buicks.
“You are so strong.” Not necessarily the case, just trying to survive. If I appear “strong” then the act is working and I hide my pain so you can be more comfortable while I can secretly remain with my grief.
“Time heals.” This is fiction. Things change over time and things get different. Time itself does nothing, it is what you do within that time that creates change. We control our destiny. You can get lost in “grief” like quicksand pulling you with so much force you think you will surely get sucked under or you can take steps along the way to avoid the quicksand, slow, strategic, mindful steps, so that when you feel that pull, and you will, you have a rope nearby to hold onto.
“I couldn’t do what you are doing.” Not a Fact, but I thought that way once too. Well I wasn’t given a choice so here I am. This is my plight, so what I do now is totally up to me. I can give up or give in and work to live the best life I can.
My all time favorite is “You need to move on” or You need to get over it”. Not fact and not helpful and definitely not comforting. There is no such thing as getting over the loss of someone you loved dearly. Relationships mold us into who we are. Sometimes those relationships are positive and sometimes they are not, but we learn from every single thing that happens to us. We are created from happy times, sad times, positive influences, negative influences, the ups and downs, the good, the bad and the ugly. We use what we learn to be who we want to be. We do not move on, but we do move forward, away from the pain and towards the memories of the good stuff. Sometimes you want to hide from the world with its attitudes and platitudes, but in the end we have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
As i continue to meander the maze I wonder, what is my future? How do I use my experiences to make life better not only for myself, but for others. I stop to think and jot down some thoughts. For now this is my path, trying to use my pain to reach out to others. Thank you to those who read my words and my sincere wish is that you find “Hope” in every blog. My intent is to take what seems insurmountable and use it to create a future full of joy while still loving and remembering my precious Lindsey, my true soulmate, Rick and the best Mom a girl could ever have and all the others who were part of my journey. I wish for anyone reading this that you will take time out for yourself today and practice self compassion. Do something that makes you feel good, something for yourself or something for someone else. We are not promised everything is this life will be perfect so it is up to us to make it the best it can be while we continue the journey…