Comforting Words During Grief

Dealing with grief is something we will all go through at some point in our lives. Yet, it seems like it’s the thing we are the most ill equipped to show comfort for. Our intentions are to give comfort, to show support, compassion and empathy, but more often than not it seems we cause more pain or hurt.

Why is it so hard to say the right thing? Why is it so easy to say something hurtful, even unintentionally?

Since my brother passed away, it feels like hell. Losing him, dealing with life, worrying about your family, trying to understand how and why this would happen. Then on top of all of that, bracing yourself to deal with people.

People who care, people who don’t, people trying to comfort with truisms and quotes, sad eyes and meaningful squeezes. It’s all from a caring place, but you kind of cringe and or get angry.

Those things are expected and a way of avoiding them is to keep to yourself. Stay away until you know you can handle it and see the love behind it.

However, there is something else that happens. Something that tears your guts out. Some people treat this tragedy, this life altering, heart rending loss as gossip. They call and ask awful, intimate questions about the incident and your family. They are callous about it, saying things like, ” yes, I dealt with : insert very low-key experience: , so I understand what you are going through”. It’s like saying  “I once had a cut on my finger, I completely understand what losing your arm was like for you.”

It cheapens the intensity of your feelings, you feel violated and defensive. It feels like they are telling you that they know and have felt what you are going through, when really they couldn’t possibly know and all they accomplish is reminding you that you are alone in your pain.

I recently read a post from a mother who lost her daughter at a young age, in a violent manner. She mentioned one of the most difficult things after her loss was how people felt they needed to comment on how she didn’t do the right things to prevent what happened. When I read that my heart squeezed shut. At a time when this poor women was dealing with the most horrific thing a mother could go through, people were tearing her apart, laying the blame at her feet.

It’s human nature to say and do things that make you feel better about a situation, you rationalize situations so you may feel safe from those random atrocities happening in your life, to your loved ones.

It doesn’t work that way, and in the process you are creating a situation where you are putting guilt where it will already lay. Loved ones left behind will always feel the burden of seeing what “could have, would have, should have,” been done. It’s a curse and unfair. Hindsight is truly 20/20. Why add fat to the fire? Isn’t better to give that person the comfort they are desperate for? Isn’t it better to simple hold someone, cry with them, soothe them by allowing them to express their great loss?

Today I went to visit a woman who has been in my life since nearly birth. She knows my family, knew my brother. She held me tightly as tears poured down my face, she told me memories about him and I when we were young. She shared in my grief and simply felt what my family was going through. She said not a word of “understanding”, she said many words of loss and love.

I hope that should, and when the time come in my life to be there for someone, I will remember to be caring enough to ask what they need, to share in their grief and to give them only love, not “understanding”. Hare Krsna


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