What Not To Say To Someone Who is Grieving ANYTHING
On November 8th, 2016 many of us felt the earth shake under our feet when Donald Trump became President Elect. It was an emotional and contentious campaign, and people had strong feelings about both candidates. Once non-Trump supporters got over the shock, they started to mourn the loss and what it possibly meant for the future. People are grieving, and for those of us who aren’t it is hard to know how to respond to a sensitive friend’s social media posts and declarations about the end of the world.
1. Easy on the judgment
Whether you are someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one (you might be thinking that’s real loss) or you don’t tend to identify with universal tragedies, it is important to understand that everyone has their own way of coping. Loss isn’t something people can just get over and sometimes it requires a compassionate ear. Even if you don’t identify with what they are going through, you can try your best to understand and accept that they are having a tough time.
2. There’s no timeline for grieving
The saying that time heals all wounds must have come from someone who was grieving. Grief is a process and it can take time to heal. Lots of time depending on the loss, the person’s support system and other factors in their life. You may feel like they should be moving on weeks or even months later but that’s your timeline, not theirs. Again, this may be a presumption or belief that you feel strongly about, but it can be a very unsupportive stance for someone who is knee deep in angst.
Some people have a tendency to want to make things better for the people they care about because seeing them in pain is hard or maybe makes them uncomfortable. Often we search for words that are comforting or uplifting but sometimes it feels hopeless or ineffective. Don’t underestimate the power of just listening and being there. The truth is that there are sometimes no words to soothe a broken heart but sitting with someone in their grief makes them feel loved and supported.
4. Don’t be afraid to bring up the source of grief.
Some people believe that bringing up the source of someone’s grief will incite tears and sadness. While this may be the case for some, it can be really helpful to give someone the opportunity to talk about the loss they are experiencing. It’s a good idea to check-in with yourself whether the discomfort lies with you or whether you are trying to spare your friend’s feelings. Chances are they will appreciate the openness and it will bring you closer together.
5. Be prepared for some unexpected emotions.
Some people cry at the drop of a hat; others have angry explosions and are not even aware of it. If you know someone who is grieving cut them a bit of slack and give them space to feel their feelings. This can be really difficult if they are lashing out and you may have to take some space before you respond with something like, “I see that you are going through a hard time right now.” Try to acknowledge the emotion without making a judgement about it so the person is aware of it, but they feel supported.
6. Avoid positive platitudes
“Look on the bright side,” or “try to be positive” have no place in a conversation for someone who is feeling the affects of grief. They have the right to decide when it is time to move forward and these types of sentiments or clichés minimize what they are going through. Instead, if you don’t know what to say try to cheer them up by doing something kind like bringing over a movie or their favorite food. These gestures can provide comfort and don’t require a ton of effort.