Things Not to Say to People Who Are Grieving – #3

friendships
3.  “You shouldn’t feel that way.”

What an awful thing to say to someone who is suffering a loss.  Yet, amazingly, this has been said to many who are struggling.  Grief is one of the most unpredictable emotions.  It changes you forever.  Everyone has a right to grieve in their own way with whatever feelings they are experiencing.  You and I have no right to tell them how they should feel. When the grieving person is responding in a way that doesn’t fit with what another deems acceptable, then often that person will make a judgmental statement or behave in a way that is hurtful to the griever.

I remember when I received the news that my brother had been killed.  It was first thing in the morning.  It was shocking.  Since my family lived out of town I had to spend the day coordinating the quickest way to get home.  It wasn’t until the evening that I called my best friend from college.  When I called her I told her what happened in a very matter-of-fact way.  By that time I was completely numb; there was no sobbing, hysteria, etc.  I didn’t hear from her for three weeks!  When I did talk to her she said she didn’t call because I didn’t seem that upset about it!  We didn’t speak for a year.

That is an example of how my friend had an expectation of how I “should have” been when I called her.  She made judgments about me because I didn’t respond in the way see deemed appropriate.  And this is someone with whom I had been close.  She was not able to take into consideration what had gone on for me all day and to understand where my head was.  In fact, her clear lack of support made her judgment of me very evident.  It took a while to make amends in that relationship.

To the griever: Whatever feelings you are feeling from hour to hour, day to day are normal for you and your situation.  Please be careful not to feel guilty about your feelings.  Not all the feelings you have will make sense to you.  Surround yourself with people who can handle the depth of your feelings.  The hurt that you feel when someone you think cares cuts you off or tells you not to feel that way is significant.  Tell them when they hurt your feelings.  If they keep failing at supporting you reach out to others who do provide the support you need.  Sometimes the people who can understand your feelings may surprise you.

 

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