10 things not to say to grieving Mary Missy Taylor

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Woman wading through muck crop 1

 

Like most of the rest of us, my friend Mary Missy Taylor has been through a lot of shit.

On a scale of one to a hundred, hers ranges from “I’ll-hold-my-nose-and-put-my-rubber-boots-on,” to “hide-the-razor-blades-and-there’s-a-chance-I’ll-make-it-out-of-here-alive.

In the course of walking barefoot through the muck, Mary Missy has stumbled upon a whole whack of wisdom. She shares bits and pieces of it with her friends far and wide.

Once, she posted a “short list of the absolute worst (and most invalidating) things you can say to someone who is struggling with loss, grief, or suffering.”

It made sense to me. She gave me permission to post it.

Here are the top ten things Mary Missy (and probably the rest of us) don’t want to hear when life has buried us in an avalanche of crap:

  1. “Well, at least….”
  2. “You have so much to be thankful for…”
  3. “You need to let it go…”
  4. “Look on the bright side…”
  5. “Everything happens for a reason, and…”
  6. “I know how exactly you feel…”
  7. “This is for the best…”
  8. “If I were you; you should; why don’t you….
  9. “You have so many people who love you…”
  10. “You’re tough…”

“The temptation to distract and override the pain with advice or positivity is alienating and actually dis-empowering,” Mary Missy added. “If you know someone who reaches out for support, a helpful thing you can do is just be present in their grief and share their pain.”

She’s right. It’s also useful to know that people grieve in different ways, and all of them are normal.

In the case of people who live with dementia and their care partners, the grieving process can go on for years as the disease progresses, and for years after the person is gone. That’s normal too.

On the other hand, it’s often better so say something in empathy and with good intention even if we don’t get the words quite right, than to say nothing at all.

Shared grief is more easily borne.

“We don’t want people to get so freaked out about saying something wrong that they say nothing at all,” writes care partner Lorrie Beauchamp. “I appreciate all the kind words people offer, and try not to take offence when it feels ‘facile’ or cliche. They don’t know what I’m going through, and I don’t know where they’re coming from. Communication is so important!”

Thanks for sharing your wisdom Mary Missy Taylor and Lorrie Beauchamp. I acknowledge your loss and your pain, and I stand with both of you in your grief.

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Copyright: rh2010 / 123RF Stock Photo

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: 20 things & beings i love & am grateful for today

  2. Great list and there are probably at least 100 more! I have found (like Lorrie) that I am just able to say “Thank You,” not take offense, and understand that the person uttering the ignorances is just trying to support you (and or cover their own fears and grief.) We should compile a list of things it IS OK TO SAY! Like, “I love you.” or “I am here for you.” “Go ahead and cry!”

    • Excellent idea Michael. You are more of an expert than I – if you go ahead and create list of the kinds of things that feel comforting to you, I will be happy to share it <3

  3. I’m sure a lot of caregivers and grieving family members will relate to this, and it’s great to see Mary’s list. On the other hand, we don’t want people to get so freaked out about saying something wrong that they say nothing at all. I appreciate all the kind words that people offer, and try not to take offence when it feels “facile” or cliche. They don’t know what I’m going through, and I don’t know where they’re coming from. Communication is so important!

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