There are two interrelated items I would like to share for this week’s Sunday Thought.
Language is of particular interest to me. I’ve had a post about grief platitudes sat in my drafts folder for more than a year, but I’ve struggled to articulate why I find them so annoying. Then this post: What People Say When You’re Grieving Vs What You Hear came along and saved me the bother.
It perfectly sums up and clearly explains why platitudes are often ill-received.
Below is an example of one of the platitudes that I find most frustrating:
What they say:
What You Hear:
I know when people say these platitudes they are well-intentioned. They are not trying to cause hurt, offence, or upset. Quite the opposite – they are trying to offer comfort, make you feel better.
The purpose of sharing these things isn’t to ‘tell anyone off’, to make people feel bad, or to make them feel they can’t do (or say!) right for doing wrong.
It’s just to let them know how it feels, because I hope they never have to be on the other side.
Some of the classic platitudes can close off a conversation. They can make me feel that my opinion and experiences are not valid, or that the person I am speaking to doesn’t want to hear me talk about them.
That can cause a sense of isolation, drive a wedge, and foster resentment. It’s not pleasant for anyone.
Sometimes all you can do is listen, or offer a hug. If you do feel the need to speak, ask an open question (“What does that mean?”, “Would you like to tell me more?”) or simply say you don’t know what to say.
There’s no escaping the fact that these conversations can be uncomfortable. But let’s remember your discomfort lasts only for a short while – and such compassion, understanding, and empathy will mean so much to the grieving person.
What I need most from people is compassion and support, not pity or correction please.
The latter often arise from the platitudes.
I don’t need to be told I’m brave, or strong. It’s not like I have a choice but to keep surviving.
I don’t need advice. There is no right path.
I need understanding.
Understanding that I am damaged, but not broken.
Understanding that I will love Hugo forever, and I will grieve for him forever.
Understanding I will never stop missing Hugo, or wondering who he would be.
Understanding when I don’t respond to messages for days. That it doesn’t mean I don’t care or don’t want to talk to you. It’s usually because I’m unable to see through the grief fog.
Understanding when I need to cancel plans. That it is not personal.
Understanding when I don’t know which way to turn.
Understanding when I don’t want to celebrate your pregnancy announcement, or hold your newborn baby.
Understanding that there is no ‘at least’.
Understanding that travelling alongside me is the greatest gift you can give me.