People who are well-meaning often say the silliest things in times of grief.
I know you have heard and likely say things to people grieving thinking they are helpful but many times they are not. Some of the most common ones I find strange are:
- Do not cry…be strong
- God loved them more so he took them
- Be strong for your father/mother
- I am so sorry
- Make sure you stay united
- You must talk about it
- You need to snap out of it
Yes, the statements may make space in some contexts but they are not universally ok. Let me explain a few.
If you know me well enough and you are aware that I come from a close-knit family, taking care of my mother is a given, not an option, so please do not tell me to take care of her…I already am. We are working on a plan that is only visible in the family and you will see the results later on when she is more lively.
I will cry be sure of that; silent tears, wails from my belly, torrents in the watches of the night, wails in the arms of people I know love and uphold me. Nothing you say will stop me because tears cleanse the eyes and the soul by letting out the pain. If you do not like tears, stand back or walk away.
I will talk about it, but you may not be the one I talk to. If we haven’t been close in the last few years, do not expect me to pour my heart out to you. Oh, we can have conversations and I will tell you stories but do not expect the saddest parts to be shared with you. Pray for me as I deal but do not expect it too much.
God loved them so he took them, so are you saying he doesn’t love us? One thing that fascinates me is grief’s irrational nature. Things that would make sense when I wasn’t in this state will trigger visceral reactions while grieving. Faith that made sense when it was all smooth is on the threshing floor now so be careful when approaching.
If you think someone has grieved for too long never, and I say it again, NEVER tell them to snap out of it. In counselling, I learnt that the minimum grieving time is three, yes 3, years. So if three years haven’t passed and I am not spiralling into depression, please step back…I will be fine.
Let us learn to give people space to grieve in whichever way works for them, how they want and according to their personality. I am not one given to crying in public and no, I rarely wail. So If you are a wailer and roller, do not expect me to be like you or judge the depth of my grief. If you cannot see where I get the strength to laugh in this season, do not assume I am alone…there is likely an ecosystem around me that is working to support me.
Bottom line…be careful and sensitive when you speak with the bereaved…you may get sidelined for life.