Tag Archive | helping

Twelve Sentences to Retire When Speaking with a Grieving Person

This article is from: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/12-sentences-retire-speaking-grieving-130042291.html

Elaine Roth

September 8, 2020·5 mins read

It’s hard to see a friend hurting after a loss. After someone we know suffers a profound loss, our instinct is to help, to fix, to make all the hurt go away. But the truth is, there is no way to cure the grief that is born of loss. There are no words that will fix the heartache.

After my husband died, friends and family surrounded me. They handed me glasses of wine and bottles of water and made sure my kids and I ate on a regular schedule. But they couldn’t make any of it better.

Often, though, they could make it worse. By accident, with the best of intentions, they might say the things—the platitudes—that are often relied on in times of grief when there’s nothing else to say. But those sentences often left me feeling like my grief was either wholly misunderstood or wholly over-the-top and inappropriate, and it’s time to retire those platitudes.

Everything happens for a reason.

Never—never, ever, ever—say this line to a grieving person. It may be true. It may not be. The truth of the statement is wholly irrelevant. Loss is loss. It is, and it hurts. It exists whether or not a grand plan or lesson exists. The sentence “everything happens for a reason” unintentionally diminishes the pain of the loss.

He/She is in a better place now.

Again, maybe true, maybe not. But this isn’t helpful to a griever, who wants their person there with them. Maybe it was selfish, but when I was told that phrase, I didn’t want my husband in a better place. I wanted him here with me. I prefer to believe my person would rather be with me, suffer here with me, than in any other “better place,” too.

At least they didn’t suffer. At least they aren’t in pain anymore. At least it wasn’t sudden. At least you got a long time together.

All “at least” statements should be retired. On the surface they seem helpful and I’m sure they are coming from a good, kind place. But in actuality, “at least” statements tend to minimize and compare grief, and subtly, subconsciously let the griever know they shouldn’t be hurting as much as they’re hurting.

Time heals all wounds.

Time does many things when it comes to grief. It makes the pain less razor sharp. As time passes, the weight of grief lightens and it often becomes easier to breathe. But the wound hasn’t healed. It’s there, liable to reopen because of the smallest reminder. Wounds don’t need to heal. They are simply become a part of who a grieving person is.

You’re so strong.

Often when I heard this statement, I felt my weakest and therefore felt unseen. Many times the grieving person just has no choice but to do the next thing that needs to be done. It’s not strength. It’s something else just as valid and valuable.

I don’t know how you do it/I couldn’t do it if I were you.

This one is the worst offender, in my personal opinion. It implies that maybe the griever didn’t love as hard as you would have loved the person lost. It tells the griever that you have no idea how in any given moment you can be at once “doing” and falling apart because that is the only choice.

They would want you to be happy.

No doubt this is true. But this saying inadvertently tells the griever they shouldn’t feel sad or lost or whatever they are feeling because you believe they should feel happy.

You’re young and you can find someone new.

People aren’t replaceable. Even if I do “find someone new,” the loss hasn’t disappeared.

It’ll get better.

It will, but saying that to someone in the storm of grief minimizes the pain they are in at that moment.

When I lost my…

Everyone has a loss story. Everyone’ story is valid and should be told. But there are moments when it’s time to give the spotlight to someone else’s story of grief or loss. Let the griever’s loss exist without comparing your own. Give the griever space for their own story.

Let me know if you want to talk. Let me know if you need help.

So well-intentioned, and so completely unhelpful. In those earliest days of grief, it’s hard to think through the next heartbeat, the next breath. Anything that puts the onus on the griever becomes another “to-do” they can’t think through. If you want to help, send a text to check in. Show up with a meal. Don’t ask, just do.

Kids are resilient.

They are. I have a few thousand stories that can attest to the truth of that statement. But it doesn’t make it better when you’re watching your child hurt, trying to understand the permanence of death.

I am intimately acquainted with grief and yet, in the face of someone else’s grief, I’m still at a loss for words. The instinct to rely on old, well-worn phrases when I’m not sure what to say is always there. But those statements all tend to minimize someone’s pain, to invalidate the heartache. Instead, tell the grieving person that you love them, that you hear them, that you know this is hard. If that fails, sometimes the best option is to say nothing. Often just sitting next to someone grieving can do more to calm an aching heart than any platitude. In the earliest days, often that was all I wanted and all I could manage.

Platitudes are easy. Silence is hard. Most people don’t speak a platitude with bad intentions. But the more we begin to understand grief, the more responsibility we have to avoid falling back on phrases that hurt more than they help.

See the original article on ScaryMommy.com

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/12-sentences-retire-speaking-grieving-130042291.htmlhttps://

“Just Ask Me” Advice #4: How to Help a Friend with cancer

Help! How Do I Help a Friend with Cancer?

Help! How Do I Help a Friend With Cancer?

Dear Fran,

A close friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer a few weeks ago. She’s had surgery and will be undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. The doctors say her prognosis looks good, but she has had to drop out of her grad school program for the semester.

We were all absolutely devastated when we heard the news, and it’s been the most difficult thing I could imagine for her and her family. She has been inconsolably depressed, crying all the time, and so angry that her life as she knows it is over. It is so not fair that this happened to such a wonderful person—and all I want to do is make her feel even a tiny bit better.

Our friends have tried everything we can think of—spending days at the hospital, crying with her, talking, bringing games, watching movies, and more. But nothing has helped—even the good news from the doctors that we got last week. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she’s going through, so I am at a loss as to what else I could say or do that might help even a tiny bit.

How can I help her?

A Friend

Dear Friend:

I am moved by your question. It sounds as if you are a caring, concerned friend who’s doing everything possible to alleviate your friend’s suffering.

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can say or do to magically make things better or to wish her disease away. Your friend is mourning a very grave loss. Calling cancer a loss may surprise you, but a young woman being treated for breast cancer, even breast cancer she’s probably going to survive, is dealing with significant life losses, including loss of health, loss of innocence, loss of safety, (perceived) loss of sexuality, and (at least temporarily) loss of cherished dreams and ambitions.

Your friend is on a journey and needs time to process this profound life experience. All you can offer is your companionship and deepest compassion. The Buddhist definition of compassion is the nearest I’ve come to truly understanding how to handle situations like yours:

“Compassion is willingness to be close to suffering.”

Being close to her suffering means being patient with her feelings, not trying to change them. Continue to visit and when you do, encourage her to express her emotions, and always validate their legitimacy, even if they’re scary or make you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable. Don’t pretend to understand her pain; it is hers and hers alone. And when she’s opening up to you, don’t try to distract her unless she’s begging for news from the outside world or a change in topic.

Also refrain from optimistic assurances—they may come across as empty or invalidating and may further anger or depress her. Don’t, for example, try to reassure her that she can go back to school next year, or even that all will eventually go back to “normal.” Her process might take her somewhere else entirely, and her “normal” may be altered permanently, too.

All that being said, there are some ways you can help her move forward:

  1. Bring her a beautiful journal in which to record her experiences and feelings. She can keep this private, of course, but the writing process itself is wonderfully beneficial. Or direct her to a website like www.caringbridge.org, where cancer patients can write an ongoing journal, share their experiences with a community of concerned friends, and receive support.
  2. Encourage her to participate in a support group with other young women facing breast cancer or other health crises. Individual therapy with a social worker or psychologist might also help. Check out the resources in her area or community, or ask her hospital for helpful and therapeutic resources.
  3. Put together a care package of meditation tapes, green or white teas, a heating pad, aromatherapy candles, books (the young and amazing Kris Carr has a few), tissues, stationery—anything that may be comforting and relaxing to her.
  4. Bring her a book about the breast cancer experience, either a memoir or an instructional book on how to get through it. Hearing from someone else who has been through what she’s dealing with might be incredibly comforting, and help her feel that she’s not so alone.

Finally, keep doing what you’re doing. Be present and humble. Observe and reflect. Allow silence, and don’t judge. No matter how she’s dealing with this, accept her, listen to her, and love her.

Let me end with a life survival tip, which I offer in the most sincere and open way. After I lost my son, I spent years raging at the whole universe, to no avail—except to learn that the universe is 100% indifferent to what seems fair. Knowing this tidbit helped me later, when I received my own breast cancer diagnosis.

I offer this tip to help you prepare yourself for the vicissitudes of life, and to encourage you to be grateful for each moment and every day. To help you help your friend as she begins this journey. And to state a bottom-line truth that is nonnegotiable and endlessly unforgiving:

Survival Tip #1: Life is not fair.

Your friend is learning this truth, and I encourage you to learn it, too. And I wish you both good luck and good health.

Fran

Have a question for Fran? Email advice@thedailymuse.com