Compassion and Support, Not Pity and Correction, Please

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:

letmeknow

What You Hear:

yourenotgoingto

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.

RaeAnnFredrikson

6 Comments on Compassion and Support, Not Pity and Correction, Please

  1. Mary Smith
    October 16, 2015 at 10:15 am (4 years ago)

    Amen to all of that! Id add in “understand that just because its been a year doesn’t mean I don’t still need you” – everyones done a runner hahaha laughing or id never get out of bed, it will always hurt to some degree and to be honest I hate the “let me know if I can do anything phrase” because in situations like ours do we really know what we need or have the courage to ask?? like you said we cant always see through the fog!

    I prefer action and people saying “right im bringing you dinner on monday and helping you round the house” or “if you want to go to Sands next week ill come and have the kids” its so much easier to say “okay” than trying to word a request at fear of them not being able to or feeing awkward xx
    Mary Smith recently posted…Thrifty Wife, Hearty Life | Budget Evening WearMy Profile

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  2. Aimee Foster
    October 12, 2015 at 12:26 pm (4 years ago)

    When I lost my second daughter, a grief counsellor told me 3 things. Firstly, that there would be at least one friend I would never hear from again. Secondly, that at least one friend would say ‘don’t worry you can have another baby’ and thirdly, there would be at least one ‘shining star’ – someone I didn’t consider to be that close a friend who would be more compassionate and understanding than anyone else. He was right on all three counts.
    I completely agree with you about the platitudes. All you need when grieving is someone by your side – someone who stays there long term, understands and isn’t afraid of your grief.
    I’ve learned that grief makes people so uncomfortable, but as you said, the discomfort is nothing compared to what the griever is going through. Compassion, understanding and kindness are all we need x

    Reply
  3. Angela Milnes
    October 12, 2015 at 12:19 am (4 years ago)

    whilst i cannot understand what it feels like to lose a baby, I understand grief and the importance of needing support and compassion rather than the above. Thanks for sharing.

    Angela
    Angela Milnes recently posted…Having A Fun Photo Shoot at 7 Years OldMy Profile

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    • Leigh
      October 12, 2015 at 4:46 pm (4 years ago)

      Yes – I think compassion and support apply to everyone at all times, not just for grief. Thanks for commenting xxx

      Reply
  4. Beth @ Twinderelmo
    October 11, 2015 at 6:45 pm (4 years ago)

    beautiful, honest & just so true – as is all your writing Leigh. I’m so glad you’re writing is getting so widely read as it’s just exceptional xx
    Beth @ Twinderelmo recently posted…Autumn Days – The Ordinary MomentsMy Profile

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    • Leigh
      October 12, 2015 at 4:45 pm (4 years ago)

      That’s really kind Beth, thank you for reading and commenting xxx

      Reply

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