Friday, March 4, 2011

The 10 Worst Things to Say to a Grieving Person

i posted this article that i came across on In His Name {btw, if you haven't already checked it out, please do} a few days ago and got such a positive response that i wanted to share it here as well. this is a great resource for anyone that wants to better understand how to reach out to a bereaved family...

The Ten Worst Things to Say to a Grieving Person
Debra J. Hicks

Here's why some of the things people said after the loss of my son, Joshua, provided little comfort.

1. I know how you feel.
Even if your child died, you can't know how I feel, because every person and situation is unique. If you want to share how you felt when you experienced a loss, that's fine. But bite your tongue if you're ever tempted to compare two people's grief.

2. How are you doing?
Many people use this greeting out of habit and aren't prepared for an honest reply. A much better greeting is simply "It's good to see you." If you truly are prepared to find out how a grieving person is feeling, try to use specific questions such as: "What was the hardest thing you've had to face this week?" or "Have you been able to have a good cry lately?"

3. Look on the bright side. It could have been much worse.
Yes, it's true that others have had to face worse. And even though a bereaved person could probably find a dozen reasons to be thankful if hard-pressed, you needn't try to force them to be cheerful. Sadness is the normal, healthy response to the death of a loved one.

4. Call me if there's anything I can do to help.
Few grieving people will ask for help because they are usually too overwhelmed to assess and prioritize their needs. Friends should offer to do something specific and remember to get permission before taking action.

5. At least we know it was God's will.
While it's true that God allows bad things, this statement is insidious because it implies that He intentionally plans them in order to punish or teach us. It's not God but the enemy who deserves credit for evil and its completely irrational results.

6. Don't worry; you're young. You'll get on with your life.
A loved one who dies is not replaceable. Having another child can ease the pain of a secondary loss (such as the loss of an occupation, in my case, since I was a stay-at-home mom when my only child died). But parents will mourn the primary loss, a relationship with that child, for as long as they live.

7. Aren't you happy your child doesn't have to live in this sinful world anymore?
Although we have a blessed hope that the separation of death is only temporary, happiness won't be realized until the great reunion. If parents were meant to care only for heaven and nothing for this life, then the happiest parents would be those whose babies are stillborn, right?

8. Don't talk that way. You know better than that.
The ability to safely express doubts, questions, and anger is crucial in the healing process. It's perfectly natural for grieving persons to wonder why God didn't step in and overrule in their particular situation. Allow them to wrestle through this difficult issue and question the One who says in Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, let us reason together." He can sooner help a person who expresses these feelings than one who buries them beneath a guise of unquestioning acceptance.

9. You must be really strong. I'd die if that happened to me.
What you perceive as calm strength is more likely the numbness of shock. You may be surprised how many grief-stricken people pray for God to let them die, too. Death would be a welcome relief, and many have briefly considered suicide. The last thing they need is for someone to imply that they are disloyal for trying to make the best of the life they have.

10. You should be over this by now.
Grieving for a child is a lifelong process, not a weeklong event. The only way to get "over" it would be to forget that child, an unhealthy alternative to grief known as denial. Life will eventually seem worth living again, but it will never be as it once was. Too much has changed.


i could also add a couple:
  • "the Lord giveth, and He taketh away"
  • "you're young, you can have more children"
  • "the only thing that will make this better is time and the Lord"
was there anything said to you that you would include on this list?


Angie said...

I have to disagree with the "how are you doing?" question as most of the people who have asked me that sincerely want to hear the truth. I'd much rather be asked that than "have you had a good cry lately?" or something like that! But I'm sure that will differ among different people. The rest, I totally I agree with!

Tiffany said...

angie, you're right. it definitely depends on the person that asks. i'm split down the middle on "how are you doing?" i think 50% of the people that asked me were just making conversation (but i get this a lot at work). i'm with you, i don't think i would want someone to ask me if i "had a good cry." that's an odd question in my opinion.

Our Journey said...

Great post Tiffany. Some of the things I heard after loosing Eden were helpful, but some were not, like...
1. God took your baby because you never know, she could have been sick or had something wrong with her and she would have been a burden.
Yes, someone actually said that!!! There was nothing wrong with Eden! She was healthy, my body failed her and even if she would have been "sick" she was my child and could have never been a burden. I could not believe that when I heard it!
2. There are plenty of biracial babies, why don't you go get one?
Not the thing to say to someone two days out from burrying your child!

Overall, people were good to me, but these two things just stuck out in my head.

Heather said...

Our Journey - When my son, Wyatt, was stillborn, one of my best friends said, "Well obviously he had something wrong with him, otherwise he wouldn't have died. If he had lived, he wouldn't have been normal anyway." Then went on to explain that her sister-in-law is a nurse, that's who told her this, so she knows what she's talking about. This was even after all results were in and she heard me tell her he was completely healthy and normal with no defects/abnormalities, he was perfect and no cause of death was found. Her and I have not been close friends ever since. She tries to keep in touch and I'll respond every now and then, but even after over 4 years, I just can't believe my best friend would say something like that to me, not realizing how badly it would hurt me.

Shana said...

Oh God I wish I had this list a year and a half ago to hand out at my daughter's funeral! Another one for me was, "It's probably better this way. You never know if she would have been healthy". Yeah, nice she never got the chance hu?! I make it a point to never say more than I need to when someone is grieving. Cause dealing with the thoughtless comments after losing my brother and then my daughter, almost unbearable. And ya, I hate it when people say, "You must be so strong. I'd have died!" As if you aren't grieving as hard as you should. Or should just curl up in a ball and die. We just continue to live the life we are given.

MrsH said...

I agree with Angie above, if somebody asked me if I had a good cry I would cringe inside and look at them like they are a bit too intrusive. As far as the world out there knows, I am made of steel and do not cry. Hehe. So much for showing my soft side.
With the rest, I agree, esp no 5, God's will . That irritates me to no end. Who are they to say what God wants and wills for me?

Raquel said...

My absolute hated is..."everything happens for a reason!" It really frustrates me. I also agree with Shana and Heather..."you never know if he going to be healthy." uh...either do you.

Great list Tiffany thank you for sharing!

Susan said...

I don't mind other bereaved mums telling me they know how I feel. I find it comforting that someone out there does...

Just had too many horrid comments to list tbh - when C died I remember thinking I should keep a Crass Book and declare a "winner" after 12 months... maybe I should just go ahead and do that...

Monica said...

I would have to add..."It was for the best, had she lived she would have suffered."

Vicky said...

Someone told me one time that I should go buy a cat because they are soooo cute and will keep me and my husband company. She said her sis in law was having problems having kids and they bought a cat and now they are happy. She said sometimes it's just not meant to be....YUP SOMEONE SAID THAT!

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