WHAT NOT TO SAY TO A WIDOW, A TUTORIAL
First of all, no one knows what to say to someone grieving. None of us. Not the ones who are going through it and not the ones who have gone through it. Even therapists don’t always know what to say, and they get paid for that crap!
That being said, after going through last year, I have compiled a list of the things said to myself and my fellow sarcastic grievers (yes, that’s a term!) that made us all a little nuts when we heard them.
Though I say this is a widow tutorial, these are my 5 things never to say to anyone going through a loss, regardless of the type:
1) Be strong. For me, this was the worst- I mean, DUH, I’m trying here.
This phrase actually gave me two panic attacks. Those who are grieving don’t need to be reminded that we have to stick it out and that there is absolutely nothing we can change about the situation.
We ALL need to be able to be fall down and weep – and being strong has nothing to do with that fact. Those who are strong are actually the ones who acknowledge their emotions and cry when they need to. They don’t bottle it up. They work through the pain.
2) Time heals all wounds. When I heard this, my snarky inward answer was this: Really? Well, then I would like time to speed up then. Thanks for reminding me I have to feel this gut wrenching pain for awhile.
Yes, time does heal all wounds, and we will figure that out when we need to – when we are looking back at our experience. We will realize how far we’ve come on our journey. Until then, we don’t need to be reminded.
3) There is a plan. Oh – thanks! I had no idea my pain was the part of a larger scheme of things. How about weird crap just happens? And we learn and grow from it? Humans feel the need to control what happens in our lives – and when we can’t control it we say “it’s part of a larger plan”.
Some may find comfort in that reasoning for loss, but others may not. It is an individual belief system – one that I don’t necessarily subscribe to – but I have friends who do. The point is, we don’t know if a person believes that or not, and it is not our place to convince them one way or another while they are in the midst of loss.
4) Everything happens for a reason. See above. No, they don’t. Sometimes things just happen that suck. And again, some believe things happen for a reason – but it is not our place in the midst of their loss to project how we believe. This is not about us (the commenter) – it is about the feelings of the griever.
5) So, do you think you’ll ever love again? Possibly my favorite. Yes, we will (and many of us have! ) , but for the love of everything holy, please don’t ask this question. (Also – don’t ask a person if they’re getting another pet when their furry companion dies. That’s just as bad or worse. Stop. Please.)
So, what do you say? I loved hearing “I just don’t know what to say- I am so sorry for your loss”. My answer was – “Yeah, I don’t know what to say either – life is weird”. And I meant it. Life is weird, and there are no answers.
Before Jim died, I am SURE I said some of these things to people, so if you have said them, don’t sweat it, just use this as a reminder that what not to say to someone who is raw with emotion.
Everyone is different about what comforts them – so I may be off base for some, but hey, everyone grieves differently – some are more sarcastic than others ;).