Death Stalker

Everytime a friend has someone that dies, I stalk their Facebook page. I look for the phrases that send me reeling. The ones that I still can’t believe people say. This, of course, is coming from someone who isn’t that religious anymore, so some of these phrases have a lot of religious connotations that I once understood better. In speaking with other widow(er)s and those who have grieved the loss of a loved one, I do know that even those who are more religious don’t like certain phrases being said to them. No matter what we are taught, there is still so much pain with death, that rejoicing in it seems ridiculous. I decided to go back and stalk some of the things people said, well meaning, to those who are grieving.

Free at last!

I’m sorry for you loss, but thankful he/she’s in Heaven with his father.

So happy he/she has a new body!

He/She is experiencing the ultimate healing!

He/She wouldn’t want you to hurt.

These are just a few of the ones I read that hurt me. Our friends and family mean well, I know this, or at least, I have learned this. They do not say these things to make us more upset, they say these things to give us a bit of comfort. They want to tell us something that will break through the pain and anguish we feel and give us light. It’s an honorable thing, and to this day, it’s probably something I still do, without realizing. It’s natural for us to want to give advice at a critical time of need.

Advice isn’t needed. Not yet. When it’s needed, we’ll ask. There are no quick solutions to grief, no waving of the wand, or words that suddenly alter all our emotions towards the positive. Grief is real and deep and painful. It brings all of our inadequacies, our guilt, memories, reflections to a maximum level of cruelty. We are devastated in our loss.

“Think before you speak” is the only advice I can give to friends hoping to comfort loved ones in their time of grief. Be available, share with them how you ache for them, for their loss. There is no need to apologize, or give them words of advice, or tidbits to get through it, or even tell them that in time they’ll get through it. When I heard all of these things, I cringed. I wanted to feel my pain, and I wanted validation to feel that pain. For me, the advice I was given felt like someone telling me how to grieve, and to me, that was unacceptable.

We grieve on our own, we have to, it is part of the healing process. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reach out to our friends and family to find solace and comfort, but we have to find our own paths to healing. Stop for a moment before you speak and share with ones who are grieving, then attempt, in some way, to relate to them – put yourself in a position where you can feel their pain. Walk with them, as they need.

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Comments 5

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Brenda. The comment I hated most was “God must have needed him”, after hearing this one too many times I began saying, “I needed him, God could have f***ing waited!” When not appropriate I left out the expletive. Looking back I know I said this to many well intentioned people and I regret it, but I was tired of people saying stupid stuff to me. I guess grief makes us weary.

  2. I grow tired of it too…we all do!

  3. It is so hard to know what to say without coming off wrong. I’m at that point in life where my classmates and I are all losing parents. I’ve had to extend several condolences in the last 2 weeks. Somehow, we all end up saying, I’ve walked in your shoes, and I’m going through it too. I question is that appropriate? I’m guilty of writing it many times over. Also, I have a friend whose mother was my 4th grade teacher, and on that thread, one of us always notes who lost a parent that year as well. This starts the whole commiseration thing again. I think the intention is good in that we’re all trying to support each other in these situations. Still, it has occurred to me that maybe someone didn’t need to hear that yet again.

    As for the statement about being in a better place, it would only occur to me to say that when the deceased suffered before death. In your case, Brenda, I think that’s exactly what everyone was thinking. It doesn’t make it easier though. In the case with my Mom, my aunt and I were the first ones to say it to each other before she was even moved from the bed because she suffered terribly on many levels. Still, I feel the loss every day.

    Maybe I’m rambling here, but I think maybe it’s because most people don’t know the right words to say in these situations.

  4. I think all of your points are very valid and real Mac. The fact is, we want to relate/support, but often, we just need to acknowledge that their situation is unique and tragic, because to them, it is.

  5. I am reading a novel now that caught my eye, “How To Talk to a Widower.” When I met my husband, he had just lost his wife 4 months ago, and so that’s why I noticed the book. It’s by Jonathan Tropper and I guess it would be considered “chick lit” but actually, I think it’s pretty well written. The late-20’s potty-mouth “anti-hero” lost his wife of 3 years in a plane crash. She was 11 years older than him and has a teen=age son, who’s a mess. The narrator’s terrified/sad/guilty of ever meeting anyone else because it would mean that he “would no longer be willing to go back and imagine her not getting on that plane.” Really is making me think about what it would be like to have lost my husband at a young age.

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