Those of us coping with loss could use lessons in self-defense. Not to fight off muggers, but comments from people who may (or may not) mean well. The common, ”You’ll get over it” – usually accompanied by, ”“It just takes time” – is insulting. (Do you have a timetable for me?) Widows, and anyone struggling with the end of an affair, often have to endure the promise that they’ll “meet someone else.” That’s akin to telling women mourning a miscarriage or stillbirth, “You’ll have other children.” As though we’re looking for stand-in’s. for the one we lost.
The reality is that the majority of people don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving. We ourselves often stumble when we’re the ones offering sympathy. When my sister also became a widow I told her,“I know how you feel.” She shot back:“The hell you do.!” Her response was rude but accurate, for even in blood relationships grieving is doesn’t come iin cookie-cutter style. When I’m subjected to that “know how you feel” remark I try to conserve my energy and imply say, “Thanks, but each of us is different.”
Of course there are remarks there’s really no answer to. When my grandmother died a callous cousin scoffed at my tears.“She was an old lady,” he said. Sometimes we should just walk away and let our silence speak for us.
Silence may also express something else. After my husband died one of our friends seemed to have misplaced my phone number. When I summoned courage to tell her that I wished she’d call more often she said: “Frankly I can’t deal with your pain.”
That’s really where it’s at. People fear that if your husband (sibling, child, partner) can die, so can theirs – – and it also brings up fears of their own mortality..
So what can we do to protect ourselves? For starters we can jettison any “make nice” belief and refuse to accept thoughtless remarks thrown at us. We also need to realize most people aren’t speaking from malice, but ignorance. The standard, “I’m sorry for your loss,” my sound like a cliche, but it’s sometimes the safest choice.
The brighter side of this picture is that there are some thoughtful people who understand what would genuinely help us. Even if we pride ourselves on being ”strong” and independent ,we can benefit from learning to accept offers such as “I’m going ti the store, can I pick up anything for you?” A harassed mother told me the most welcome words she’s heard were,”Would you like me to watch the kids today so you can have some time to yourself ?”
Interestingl that these two offers were expressed as questions: What would YOU like? Giving us a choice. For whatever words come our way, what’s key are respect for our feelings – and allowing space for them.
(What has YOUR experience been? Share – and the most interesting will be posted here.)
WEBSITE: WWW: annehosansky.com
Relevant books: “WIDOW’S WALK”– available through iUniverse.com; “TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW” -xLibris.com; ”COME AND GO”– Bookbaby.com. Also available through Amazon.com.and Amazon Kindle.