Did They Really Say That?
Did They Really Say That?
Last week in Iowa, a woman came up to me after my event with a burning question. She wondered; “will people always say dumb things to me?” “Sadly,” I replied “people who have not experienced a similar loss will likely always say things that irritate or hurt you.” I then proceeded to tell her my theory on how she could know when something hurtful or dumb was about to be said by listening closely to the first words of a sentence someone is speaking. Kind of like a boxer who sees a punch coming and can block it and bob and weave to avoid it … my theory works like that with words.
For example, when someone begins a sentence with the words, “well, at least.” … brace yourself, because you will not like what is coming next … “well, at least they didn’t suffer” … “well, at least you have other children.”
As important as faith is to me personally, I have also found sentences that begin with “God” generally make people like us want to pull our hair out … “God has a plan” … “God never gives us more than we can handle” … and of course the mother of all God references … “God needed another angel.”
Also, keep an ear out for “I could never” … “I could never be as strong as you” … “I could never survive if my child died.” I want to tell people that none of us survive because we are strong, we are broken and weakened … we survive because even though we are depleted, we breathe.
One of my least favorites is when someone begins a sentence with the words … “it’s so good.” They say things like “it’s so good that you took something so bad and turned it into something so good.” Now if one of you who walks in my shoes says this, I consider it a compliment … because you have lived with this kind of loss. When others say it trying to find a silver lining in my child dying on the shoulder of an interstate at 18-years-old … I am sorry but the word good does not apply … thank you.
Most people feel the impulse to say something to us when we are newly grieving. Even though we get that they likely mean well, their words, even well intended can cut like a knife. One single sentence can be so powerful when we are in deep grief … words that validate our pain and the magnitude of our loss bring comfort … words that minimize or marginalize our loss bring us more pain.
Just as we learn to live with loss and accept that pain and hope eventually coexist within us. Most of us just concede that listening to platitudes, silly clichés and downright dumb things is all part of this journey. In the early days of grief, I would correct people or call them out on what they said … over the years I have learned the ignorant bliss their words come from is what I wish I still had. I would give anything to be as blissfully ignorant as they are. Yep, I would trade all of the sensitivity, compassion and insight I have gained to have my girl back.
So, how do I end this blog? What could I say to take these words home? Oh, I have it … let me leave you with an oldie but a goodie from our ignorant things people say file … “well, at least we have the memories to carry us through” 😎
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