For those who are experiencing deep grief- the kind that feels like your insides are being ripped out, and you have to struggle just to take the next breath- hearing a platitude can feel insulting. In our culture today, I don’t know think we are taught how to grieve. As a result, people often don’t know what to say to someone who is experiencing a loss. In their helplessness, people can say something that seems thoughtless, or that may actually elicit anger in the one grieving.
“God chose to bring him home.”
“Our loss is Heaven’s gain!”
“Her wings fly high and her infectious smile will make the sun shine brighter.”
“It could have been so much worse,”
“At least she’s not feeling pain anymore,”
In her article on the Modern Loss website, Could Everybody Stop Trying to Pretty Up Death? It’s Not Working, Melanie Brooks notes that grief is raw and often doesn’t make sense. The need in our culture to find the silver lining is an attempt to make death bearable for those observing someone grieve. Brooks states “Language that denies the mess of death also denies the grieving the chance to be messy.”
My clients who are experiencing this raw type of grief state that someone who will sit with them in silence is often most helpful. Feeling less alone in your grief can be comforting. I also encourage my clients to feel whatever they feel in the moment, whether it is anger, despair, guilt, or fear. If these emotions persist for an extended time, speaking with a professional may help.
Know that the grieving process is not linear, so someone may feel the whole gamut of emotions in one day. As Brooks noted, grief is messy, so be patient if you find yourself encountering someone who is grieving. If you don’t know what to say, you can actually be validating by saying just that-“I have no words.”
Written by: Ann Sheerin