Those of us who have gone through the tragedy of losing a child have probably heard a few surprising comments from loved ones. They are trying to understand how you feel, but they might miss the mark sometimes.
I’m writing this article in response to Rhonda O’ Neill’s recent article in Huffington Post. I do understand how certain condolences can sometimes add to someone’s pain. In fact, I have read so many articles about how the grieved have been afflicted that I have started wondering about this topic myself. Do people really offend each other so often?
I agree that these people should realize how much a loss can affect someone. I have talked with several people who struggled or have personally known someone struggling with a loved one’s death decades after it happened. The idea that grief will make someone stronger is a bit presumptuous if you don’t know how that person will respond to it.
People who know me only mentioned similar comments when they saw my website. They didn’t presume that I would grieve well, but they commented that starting a website is exactly the kind of thing they could see me doing in such a difficult situation. They were, in effect, seeing how my grief did make me stronger.
Since I’m a Christian, I do buy into the “everything happens for a reason.” I also know that many times the reason is simple: we live in a sin-cursed place. Death happens in that imperfect world.
Notice I said the reason was simple, not easy. Knowing this reason doesn’t make my grief easier, but it helps me cope with the why a little better. And I don’t know about you, but the question why was a big deal to me. In fact, I struggled with anger at the whole situation until I understood this reason.
Again, I know that saying “it has a reason” doesn’t ease someone’s pain. I think deep down people who say this phrase know that it doesn’t. But when you’re standing at the funeral of your best friend’s son, what are you going to say? Your child died in vain?
Some people might think you should say nothing. But what if nobody ever said anything to try to help? Then, you would never talk about your loved one again. Unless shutting out the memory of your loved one is your goal, I suggest you let people at least try. They care about you.
The other thing that we, the grieved, must consider is that we’re very emotional before, during, and after our loss for years to come. We will never feel the same way about our pain as we did yesterday. Especially at the beginning, we are fine one minute and the next someone’s upper portion of their cheekbone reminds us of our loved one, and we start weeping in the middle of a restaurant.
Let’s be reasonable. People can’t read our emotional minds. They are only trying to help. Yes, sometimes people will say things that are actually offensive. They might tell you to get over it or that you deserve your loss.
More than likely, though, they were just trying to comfort you, and you shut them down by getting offended. Now they will never approach you again or try to understand your pain better.
The next time someone catches you at the wrong time with their condolences, try to understand their hearts. See the love and concern in their eyes and read that instead. And then thank them for taking the time to care.
by Sarah George