5 things to refrain from saying to people who are grieving.


 

In the past 2 months, I have literally lost count of the number of people I know or have heard about, who have passed away- From the sudden passing of my uncle (gone in 3 days at the age of 54), to a wonderful woman who taught me marathi and is a grandmother of two, to a close friend’s sister (who was larger than life and has 2 young boys- I can’t believe she is no longer physically present), and a good friend’s dad- and these are just 4 people I know of directly. Added to that I have heard of 3 more people through people I know… who have passed on and it hasn’t even been 60 days since the first- my maternal uncle.

jk
You may feel like you’re looking out onto a totally difference world- where reality is a distant dream.

When you start to think of it, it’s difficult to come to terms that a person who you were talking to a few days ago, is no longer a phone call or a text message away. It breaks my heart, not just for them but for the loved ones left behind. My questions to God don’t cease to end- and I am reminded of my dear grandmother’s passing in January 2009. More than six years later, I haven’t been able to come to terms with it. I dream of her ever so often, and still wake up in tears.

People  would say all kind of things to me but it felt like a dream- this woman who was by my side- day in and day out is no more. There were so many things I wanted to say to her. I remember some of her last words to me- and I desperately try to live by it. I remember she was in hospital and all I could do was pray that she makes it, beg God to keep her alive. My cousins wife who I hold very dear said to me one day ‘Let her go- maybe she wants to go and be with her husband and Jesus’. That evening, I told the Lord that he could do whatever he wanted, I just didn’t want her to be in pain. Sure enough she passed away soon after (think it was the next day).

I comprised a list of 5 things loved ones who are left behind do not want to hear:

  1. Time will heal: Yes time is a healer. But if you have lost anyone you know that these words mean nothing- absolutely nothing. At that point time just stands still. Everything is so unreal.
  2. He/she is in a better place: Yes all of us believers in creationism, we know that the person is no more physically present and is present in spirit- is looking down upon us or dancing up there with Jesus. But really- when it’s fresh- the pain is raw and physical. Having to hear that really does not help. You want that person with you, by your side at that very moment.
  3. It’s ok you can cry/ stay strong don’t cry: Yes we know we can cry or that we must stay strong for another individual.  If a person needs to cry- not crying and holding it in is not going to help- maybe they need to cry too you know- in the privacy of their own rooms. You do not need to give your advice. So also if you know someone who hasn’t shed a tear- Let them be- Each person has different ways of dealing with loss- as long as they are not abusing themselves or others in any way.
  4. It will be ok: Will it really? Their absence will forever leave a void in our hearts. Stop it- it’s never going to be okay.
  5. I know someone in a similar situation (Comparing)– Please don’t ever ever do that. you may know a 100 people in similar situations, you yourself may have been bereft and grieving in the past- but each circumstance- each situation is different. Just don’t try to tell party A how party B got through it and is partying all night long after a year. No one needs to or wants to hear that.

What you can do is give them a hug, your love- and be there for them in any way you can. Maybe just be their sounding board, be someone they can talk to or be their shoulder to cry on. Offer to help out- be it assistance in babysitting, or procuring requisite documentation. If it’s a colleague- help by reducing his/her workload. So many little ways that make a bigger difference than words coming out of the mouth.

The passing away of so many near and dear ones in the last 2 months- hit home- we do not live forever. Make that one phone call you have been meaning to, fly halfway across the world to see that one individual. Life is too short, with no guarantee for tomorrow. Live each day, breathe, smell the roses, enjoy the rain, cry, rave or rant…. it’s just the circle of life.

P.S. Please feel free to share this post with someone who you think may need it.

56 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes we don’t know what to say and we think the common lines will be comforting. I’ve always preferred a hug and someone quietly telling me they were there if I needed anything at all. Sometimes words aren’t necessary, especially those that try to compare their life experiences with yours. Good post.

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  2. Very true. No matter how comforting we seem to be, the person who faces it really needs a lot to get up and start again. But the fact is, no one else, no amount of words can be convincing; it is the person alone, who has to move ahead with it… and restart…well written

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  3. And I wish people would stop saying “He/she was ready to go.” While in some cases the pain may have actually been so severe, that was true, most times? It’s not like they are going to the store and will be back.
    Stupid thing to say.
    Hugs better. Dropping by a week or so later after most people have wandered off – to clean house/dishes, feed them, listen to them – and take them outside for a walk. People disappear and they are left alone and often still fragile.
    Good post

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Most folks forget that Job’s friends sat silently with him for a week before they launched in and tried to put their “boxes” of interpretation on Job’s sufferings. Even after so much silence they did that. Doubtful any of us just sit with someone for a week, so imagine all the thoughtless things springing from our busybody minds! Thank you for this insightful essay. I lost my mom at age 12 and I just remember thinking, “Don’t speak to me, people: you can’t win. Not now.”

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  5. P.S. I shouldn’t say “no win.” I so enjoyed what people who knew her well shared with me: little stories about her that I had not known before. Those were the “words” I treasured most of all.

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  6. I heard a gat programme on the radio this week in which a man whose wife had died (young) was talking about how people reacted – many echoes of your post! What struck a chord with me was that in the early days after his loss he benefited most from practical help – someone bringing round a meal or bringing him photos of or stories about his wife that he was not aware of.

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  7. Another thing I don’t say is to tell them that their precious memories will comfort them. Like you said, we don’t care about the better-place or the wonderful-memories comments. Memories aren’t comforting at that time. We want the present and future with our loved one, not the past.

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  8. Hi Anthea. Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m glad you liked the post about The Evermen Saga. You thoughts on 5 things not to say to people who are grieving are very apt. Wishing you hugs and support in this time.

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  9. Well said, everyone needs to read these things, having studied counselling I know that the most important thing when someone is grieving is to 1) be present with the sufferer 2) be silent and suffer with them 3) let them unload without giving any advice, just give affection.

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  10. Excellent post! I’m sorry to hear of all the losses so close to each other. God bless you in your time of grief. Have you read A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sitzer?

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  11. I am so happy to have read your article which leaves me in a great state of poignant reflection. To think about the existence of those who have gone to eternal sleep as memories, as the dear shared, all leaves with a consolability that is tinged with love, pain and sadness. Thank you for having shared your beautiful thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think this is a great post and I appreciate you writing it. I hope folks read it and remember it for when they do encounter someone grieving.
    I have lost a lot of family members the last few years and when I hear some of these I try to remind myself that the person might not know what to say or that they’re well-intentioned, but MAN does that get tiring.
    Thank you for the like, I hope you don’t mind my following your blog! 🙂

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  13. Very sorry for your loss. I went through something similar as I lost 3 very close family members in 3 years. It takes time to accept at first and then quite sometime to feel the loss. It never ever goes away, but it does feel easier now..

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  14. A few years back my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I dealt with a lot of tragedy personally. My now-father-in-law (who lost his father as a toddler and his sister as a teen) said something that always stuck with me, about dealing with the pain and the ‘time will heal all’ myth. He said, “It doesn’t get better, it just gets different.” And as the years go by, I find that he was absolutely right. Even though it’s not the rose-colored message we usually hear that everything will be just fine again one day, I find it very comforting to remember.

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