Friday, September 24, 2010

Coping: Words that Hurt

Bookshelves are tumbling over with etiquette guides to all of life's major events: births, engagements, weddings, even divorces but there's a lack of guidance when it comes to death, and grieving. Unfortunately, there are no lessons on how to behave when someone dies, or how to deal with those who are left behind. Sure, it's not the most happy of topics to study, or discuss, but I wish there was some sort of protocol as to what should - and shouldn't - be said. 

"Isn't it time you moved on?"     "Feel better -she's in a better place"

"How long are you going to be like this?"                   "Life goes on."

"Get over it already"                              "You can't live in the past."

Just a sampling of my particular non-favourite phrases said to me, or others that I know - all of us members of the club of motherless daughters. Perhaps the people who uttered these 'words of wisdom' thought it was better to say something... even if it was somewhat misguided? I can understand the discomfort in speaking up when someone dies. It's horrible. I'm not a fan either, but a simple "I'm sorry" is always a good choice especially when the alternative can sting - even unintentionally. 

Sticks and stones can hurt but words can too.


Plain Good Sense said...

Yeah. I totally hear you with this post. What I've found surprising is that in the five years since my mother's death, I've found myself in the position to talk to other family members and friends after they have lost someone very close to them - and I am remembering how hard it is. Even I don't know what to say - even though I've been through it and remember the hurtful things that were said to me!

I remember what hurt the worst was those friends who didn't say anything about my mom's death, so I always think that saying something is better than saying nothing at all. I think that not being afraid to talk about the deceased person is always a good thing - share a happy memory or a funny story about them, so let their family know that you are remembering them and missing them, too. Say their name with ease - sometimes it seems like people don't want to bring up the name of the deceased, but I actually found it comforting to be able to talk about my mom like a normal person.

What I have found helpful to say to others is simply to tell them how it was for me - but not to assume that my grieving experience will be the same as their grieving experience. I try to be honest with them and say, "I remember feeling like I would never, ever, be happy again, and that this horrible pain would go on forever. It did go on - for about a year - and it comes back regularly. But it comes back weaker and weaker each time, and less frequently. The pain won't ever go away, but it will get easier than it is now. Life will feel normal again - I promise. Don't rush it, and take time to grieve. It will take as long as it needs to - but you will get through it."

Jackie said...

PGS, thanks so much for visiting and posting your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

You've made so many wonderful points.

When it comes to mentioning the deceased's name, you're right on the money. Sometimes I feel that people skirt around any acknowledgement whatsoever. Mum doesn't get mentioned *at all* - I find it so odd because especially on significant dates, she's foremost in my mind so for everyone to ignore this fact (probably out of fear of what to say) makes things worse.

Nicole said...

Definitely understand this post! I was told that I was going thru a phase. As if this phase was going to pass on by! The loss of a loved one is not a phase but a new way of life. After that comment was made, I responded that this wasn't phase and just decided not to even waste any more of my time. Hopefully no one has to deal with this type of phase with supposed friends! *hugs to all*