People often say to me, “I’m afraid I’ll say or do the wrong thing, so I don’t do anything”. So today in this final good grief support message, I’ll outline the biggies of what not to do.
Everyone is different, with different triggers and things that work or don’t work, but after talking with lots of folks I’ve discovered some common themes of what those grieving really wish you wouldn’t do.
- Don’t ignore what happened. Trust me, they haven’t forgotten and you aren’t reminding them of something that isn’t already on their mind every moment of every day.
- Don’t start crying or fall apart when they are not. Show care, but don’t get overly emotional about their loss. They don’t want to have to feel like they need to comfort you over their loss. They don’t want to take care of someone else. They don’t have the energy, and frankly it’s not fair.
- Don’t give advice, just listen and empathize.
- Don’t tell them: “He’s at peace now”, “She’s in a better place now”, or “He’s out of pain now”. First, it doesn’t take away the pain. It just makes the grieving feel more alone than ever knowing you have NO IDEA how little those platitudes matter. Secondarily, your belief system may not be theirs; you have no idea where the deceased is.
Supporting a grieving loved one is sometimes difficult work. Thank you for taking it on. You are making a tremendous impact with your consistent actions and investment in the griever.
Time and time again I’ve seen and personally experienced when a grieving person has just one or two consistent support people they are able to navigate The Haze more nimbly and whole heartedly which in turn creates a space for them to arrive at the next stage of grief in a more conscious way.
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This is the eleventh installment in a series of articles based on, “Good Grief – Embracing Life and Giving Good Support” a talk I gave on May 22, 2019. You can get caught up by starting with the introductory article here.