Grief is a very individual experience. I know that there are stages of grief that people typically go through. The thing that I dislike is that it seems to wrap grief up in a nice package. You work though these stages and then you get to the end and you are done and everything is better. Anyone who has ever experienced grief knows this is not the case.
There are a couple of things that people say that make me cringe related to grief. First is when people say: “I know how you feel.” Really? Because I seriously doubt that you do. And when you tell me that you do, unless you have also lost two husbands before the age of 36, you have pretty much lost me. I don’t know what people feel when they have lost a parent. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose a spouse after being married for 50 years and raising kids together. As a result, I have tried to erase that phrase from my vocabulary. I can relate to some of their struggles. I have experienced some of the same emotions. But, I don’t know how they feel, and they don’t know how I feel. What is a better response? A simple: “I’m so sorry.”
The second thing that people say that bothers me is when they comment about how strong a person is when they have lost someone and they seem to be holding it all together. I recently read an article written by Sara McNutt titled The Other Side of Grief that addresses this. She states:
” Since we have begun our own grief journey, I have noticed this subtle mindset that so many have about grief. The more outwardly composed and collected we are, the more praised we are for “being strong” and being a light and example. An example of what? Not collapsing on the floor in gut-wrenching pain and weeping that leaves our eyes nearly swollen shut and our faces red and blotchy? No, we save that for the privacy of our bedrooms… People who experience such profound loss and grief are not any stronger than you are. We did not experience our loss because we possessed more strength than you, and you are not exempt from experiencing it yourself. People who experience such profound loss and grief go on living because they have to.”
We live in a society that tells us we have to move on. After losing someone, we don’t keep functioning because we are strong. We do it because we have to. There are still jobs that must be done, bills to pay, laundry that must be done, cars to be taken care of and all of those things that had to be done before. Except now we are trying to learn how to take care of all of those things alone. Instead of praising us for how strong we are, a better response is simply ask how you can help. Ask how you can pray–that will give insight into where we need help that we won’t ask for.