The 8 Worst Comments During My Grief & What I Wish They Said
As we all make our way along this journey through grief, I’m sure you, like me have found that not all people intending to help you with their words or actions are actually helpful. The majority of the time people are very well intended. Their hearts are in the right places, but when around a grieving person they seem to become anxious, sad, and scared. Many are inexperienced with knowing how to talk to someone who has lost a loved one, especially someone who has lost their husband or children who have lost their father.
I know I certainly have had my moments when I’ve tried to bring comfort to a person in their distress and I end up putting my foot in my mouth. It happens to all of us. That is why it is so important to extend compassion and forgiveness to those who try, but fail (sometimes epicly fail) to help us. Here are a few of the top blunders I’ve experienced so far…….
1) “I’m going to come with Susie and take you to Sam’s Club to buy some food.”
While this was a kind gesture, I sure would have appreciated being asked. How about saying “Would it help you if I took you to Sam’s Club sometime and helped you get food?” “I am free Tuesday when Susie watches your kids, could that work?”
The Take Away: Assuming you can create my schedule or come over uninvited isn’t very helpful.
2) “He’s right here in your boys.”
I understand that my husband and I are the biological parents of our boys and my husband had a big influence on them, the few years he was able, but….. he isn’t here. Nothing about my relationship with my children can match, replace, or fix the fact that my husband isn’t here. How about saying “I know there is no way I can understand the pain of not having your husband here anymore.” Or “Sometimes the boys remind me of some of the wonderful things about their Daddy.”
The Take Away: I know people try to think of the right special phrases to help “fix” the situation. Sadly somethings are unfixable and once in a while the best thing is silence.
3) “Life goes on, go clean your room.”
This comment was a major ouch. It also was sent via text just two weeks after he died and was referring specifically to the room I shared with my husband which this person knew I was having a hard time even setting foot in at that point. It was from a loved one that I never would have expected would have said something so insensitive. People who have never lost their spouses have no way of knowing just how painful it is and just how much these types of comments hurt. It seems people are more comfortable typing via text what they wouldn’t dare look a person in the eye and say.
“Eventually you’ll be ready to take steps forward and clean your room.” Could have softened the blow a bit.
The Take Away: Before you send someone a text….. get a second opinion as to how you are coming across, or better yet, don’t text anything that you don’t feel right about looking at someone in the eyes and saying in person.
4) “You aren’t trying”
Not much can fix this one. It should never be said to a grieving person, let alone saying it to me just a few weeks after my life had shattered. It isn’t true of course, I know just how hard I was trying every moment in the face of tragedy and trauma and I know just how much I was bravely carrying on my plate. Sometimes people can be downright cruel. Who were they to judge the motives, efforts and intentions of my heart?
The Take Away: Never say this!
5) “I didn’t want to mention your husband because I didn’t want to make you think of him and feel sad.”
I see why people think this, but the thing is, I am ALWAYS thinking about my husband and I always carry some measure of sadness. Talking about him and sharing a memory brings comfort, and honors the life he lived. It validates just how special of a person he was and just how big my loss was. Please mention him, and if you wonder if that is ok with me, just ask.
Wish they said….
“I was thinking of a memory I had of your husband, do you feel up for talking about it?”
The Take Away: Talking fondly about the person who has died can be one of the nicest gifts to a widow.
6) “Divorce is like a death, I had to learn to snow blow my drive way”
A lady I had just met at a small group study was trying to be helpful in a very public way during our group discussion. Ending a marriage because of divorce is a very very different way and experience than ending a marriage due to death. One involves choice/ control, and the other does not. In one case the former spouse lives on. In the other case, he can never be seen or spoken to again. In one case, the children may still have an involved father they can have at least some relationship with. When your Dad dies, you have zero relationship with him. Divorce while very painful, devastating and filled with great sorrow is NOT the same experience as death/widowhood.
Maybe it would have been better to say “Taking care of a house by yourself is a hard adjustment.” “I remember needing to learn so many things.”
The Take Away: The pain of divorce is so hard and so real. So is the pain of the death of a spouse. But they are different experiences.
7) “Anyone who has lost a loved one would understand what you are going through”
It isn’t true. Every type of loss is unique. Every person who has lost is unique. Every relationship is unique. The person who said this thought that because her parents had died, she knew what my loss felt like. Reality is, the only person who would have had a real understanding of the depth of what I lost is the very person that I lost, but he will never be able to comfort me through this pain.
What if she said “I remember how hard it was when my parents died.”
The Take Away: Never say your loss is like someone else’s because it never will be.
8) I said: “How was your week?” She said: “Well, no one died.”
After someone very important to you dies, you suddenly seem to notice how frequently, flippantly, jokingly… we use death in our everyday conversation. It really never bothered me before. In this case, it did, because in my life, the most important person on the planet died. She apparently had no idea I was a widow but I truly thought someone had told her. Either way, I’m sure she was embarrassed after learning my story.
Why not just say “Well, nothing major happened.” Or “It was an OK week.”
The Take Away: Be really careful of how you use “death” in your everyday conversation because you never know the personal story of who you are speaking with.
So what are the worst things that have been said to you?
What do you wish they said instead?
In Hope & Prayers,
This Widow Mama