Wednesday, March 25, 2009
How to Deal With a Person Grieving
I think it's important to know a little something before you go off trying to give out sympathy. One thing I've learned is that no one really knows what to say, as well as no one knows how to deal with their (or anyone elses) grief. There is no good thing to say and no matter what it's still going to suck. It's pretty important to realize that people go through things differently, and just because you "send your condolences", doesn't mean we're going to be fine.
Another big thing is that when people try to make someone who is grieving feel better, they normally fail miserably. You cannot make anyone feel better, if you go to someone with those intents, you are setting yourself up for failure. Usually someone is thinking about it about 23.5 hours out of the day, so constant reminders are never going to help.
I've also learned that if you haven't dealt with something epically tragic, you're not going to have any idea how to deal with someone else dealing with it. It's not your fault, you just can't comprehend it, you're going to say what you think you should say, and you mean it as caring.
Here's what I've learned, as a person who's dealt with some pretty hard stuff lately, from watching people's reactions to me, and what works vs. what does not:
1. Never ever ever tell anyone you know exactly how they feel right now. You don't. You will never know exactly how anyone feels about anything, because you are a completely separate being. You could have a general idea, but you don't know. Even if the same thing happens to you, you'll never know exactly how someone feels about anything. So don't say it, it's offensive.
2. Don't say you're sorry for our loss. We know that. You saying it doesn't make it go away, it just opens up an awkward turtle situation. You can ask us how we're doing, or if we need anything. Or even better, think of what you should do to help and just do it anyway. We'll appreciate it eventually. Don't stop asking us if we're okay a few days after we receive horrible news either. We don't even know if we'll ever be able to smile again, please keep in touch if you really care.
3. Don't try to be the first person to call us after it happens. Odds are we're getting hundreds of calls and text messages and messages and facebook wall posts. We get it. Leave us something in our mailbox, who uses USPS anymore? It would show that you care, and that you are actually putting time towards it. Call us a few weeks later to make sure we're alright. Try to make us smile when you can.
4. Don't expect us to be okay. Don't expect this to go away in a few weeks, and don't you ever tell someone in mourning that you think they're depressed. Of COURSE they're depressed! It hurts! Every single day! Don't ask if we're okay, because we're not. We won't be for months. Try to understand that it's really hard to be upset, because everyone wants you to smile. It can take up to two years to fully recover from a loss.
5. We know that the person we lost wants us to be happy. We're not dumb. But if you died, wouldn't you want your love ones to mourn your departure? I don't think I would like it if I died and the next day every person I ever knew was fine. Of course no one wants to see their loved ones upset, but if it hasn't been even a month, we don't want you to tell us not to be upset.
6. Don't pressure us to talk about it. If we need to talk we'll talk. Don't try to make us talk to you, because maybe just maybe, we don't wanna talk to you. Maybe we're all talked out. We'll come to you if we want to talk to you. Be respectful of that. IF YOU DO want us to talk to you, and we come to you, try to make the time for us.
7. Don't make it about you. I know that sounds selfish, but we're the ones mourning. Just listen to us. We need to get out what we feel like saying, and odds are we don't want to hear about your boyfriend who fought with you this morning over what to wear. We came to you to talk about us, during a very hard time.
8. A good response is "I could never imagine what you're going through". No other comment needed.
9. If it's been less than a week, don't tell someone that everything happens for a reason. No one who is upset wants to hear that, unless we say it first. If you say that, then we'll think about what the reason is that this happened. No one wants to think about why a loved one was taken away from them.
10. If you don't know what to do, leave us alone. We're overwhelmed with a feeling of loss and confusion that we're not going to be able to fix anytime soon. We need to be alone sometimes to gather our thoughts and have a good cry. Don't take away our cries, everyone needs them once in awhile.
What do you think are good ways to deal with someone grieving?