People say all sorts of things when your person dies and most of it is NOT helpful.
Don’t get me wrong - of course it probably comes from a good place… and yes, I recognize that people don’t always know what to say to the grieving.
Grievers are uncomfortable to be around. We’re terribly sad and you only want us to feel better, but there’s really NOTHING that you can say to make things better…
Many times I found myself avoiding going out into the public or even accepting phone calls so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the stupid shit people said.
It is with great restraint that grievers don’t punch more people in the throat from things they say. (Kidding, but also not kidding at all.)
So I decided to make a list of 15 things not to say to a griever.
And more importantly, WHY… like, what we’re thinking.
It might make things make a little more sense to you, the nongriever.
15 THINGS NOT TO SAY TO A GRIEVER:
(SPECIFICALLY A WIDOW, BUT SUBSTITUTE WORDS AND CIRCUMSTANCES FOR OTHER GRIEVERS.)
1. “Everything Happens for a Reason.”
No, no it fucking doesn’t.
There is absolutely no “reason” that my husband had to die. Even if there was - but there’s not – I wouldn’t believe you or accept it. You cannot tell me there’s a reason why my young children had to grow up without their dad.
I used to believe this statement myself. Hell, I used to say it. But it wasn’t until Eric died that my beliefs changed.
I believe that not all things happen for a reason, sometimes shit just happens. But I do believe that the universe - or God, whatever you believe in - is constantly trying to work in our favor if we just get out of the way.
Good has come since Eric’s death. But that’s not the reason he had to die.
2. “You’re young, you’ll marry again.”
Are you fucking kidding me right now?!?!
I’m never getting married again! I can’t even think about marrying anyone - or falling in love again. Or dating. Or learning someone else…
I don’t even want to!
How dare you even suggest it!!
And even if I do, it won’t be Eric!
And Eric’s all I want! He’s my soulmate! I’ll never find anyone like him!
And he’s dead!
3. “He’s in a better place.”
Okay, Eric’s death was instant. He has a massive brain aneurysm. But I still seriously heard this…
Even if he was sick with a terminal illness.
Even if he was suffering.
I can’t say that this statement would help me… even in it’s truth.
Because I just want him here with me.
Another version. of this that I heard was, “God needed him more so He called him home.”
And in my deep grief, my thoughts were, “Well, fuck God and what he might need right now… I want Eric here with me and our girls! God can fucking wait.”
So yeah, “He’s in a better place” is not helpful anyway.
4. “Just give it time.”
I do not want to give it time. I just want my life back!
Time is not gonna help.
Time is gonna suck.
And let me tell you from experience, time heals absolutely nothing. It merely allows you to become more comfortable in your grief… like she’s an old friend. But when grief accompanies you through life, you’re not really living. Because grief kinda numbs you from your true sense of aliveness.
Time heals shit.
5. “I know how you feel…”
No you don’t, shut up.
You have no idea how I feel.
Even if you lost your husband when you were 38, too, you don’t know how I feel! Everyone is different. Everyone’s relationship is different. Our perspectives, our experiences, and the circumstances of death. You. Do. Not. Know. How. I. Feel.
And if you are saying this because you’re also grieving the loss of my husband, shut the fuck up.
Grieving is NOT a competition, but if it was, I win - he was MY husband!
6. “You don’t really mean that…”
This was usually said after I shared some of my thoughts and feelings after Eric died.
And I remember thinking, but this is EXACTLY how I feel, how can I NOT feel this way?!?
When you’re deeply grieving, you can make sense of some of the weirdest things that you’d usually think were crazy. But you can’t NOT think or feel those things.
Grievers just need to share what’s on their heart - no matter what it is. And they need to be heard and validated.
When someone told me, “you don’t really mean that…,” I immediately thought, “Yeah, yeah I do.”
7. “Be strong.”
You’re sad, you want to cry. Do it. Because you’re grieving. Because it’s a true and honest emotion.
Do you have to be strong for your kids? But don’t your kids need to see healthy examples on how to do it?
It’s okay to fall apart sometimes… because, yes, you will get back up.
And your kids will see that.
Being strong is falling down and getting back up. And if your husband dies, there’s no way that you can’t fucking fall down.
So fall down. And when you’re ready, you’ll get back up.
PLUS, if you have to be strong for this person and that person, who’s gonna be strong for you?!?
8. “Stay busy.”
How’s that gonna help me get better?!?
It’s not. It’s just gonna distract me. And that’s not helpful.
Even if staying busy does help your heart have a rest from grief, it’s temporary… and some people forever stay busy and don’t deal with their grief.
So don’t say it.
9. “Call me if you need anything.”
I’m not gonna call you.
I won’t need anything.
Because nothing matters right now. NOTHING.
I just want my person back and you can’t do that for me.
If you really want to help, just do. Show up and do something for me that needs to be done, without asking. Because whatever you end up doing is helpful (and I’ll eventually appreciate it), but in my opinion it’s unnecessary and trivial because my person is dead.
And even if I need to call you, I won’t unless I absolutely need to because I don’t want to bother you.
10. “You’ll see him again.”
I don’t want to wait to see him again.
I want him NOW! And with me, here!
And what if I don’t? What if heaven or an afterlife isn’t real and I never get to see him?
11. “It’s gonna be okay.”
No it’s not, my person is dead!
How is everything going to be okay?
How am I ever going to be okay after this?
Do I even want to be okay?
12. “You’re gonna grieve him forever.”
I remember when someone said this to me.
My first thought was, “you’re fucking kidding me, I’m ALWAYS gonna feel like this?!?”
And that scared me.
I didn’t want it to be true.
Because grieving his was incredibly painful. I hated it.
What I know now… you DON’T HAVE TO grieve forever. In fact, you’re NOT SUPPOSED to.
What they meant was that I would always miss Eric…
But missing and grieving Eric are two different things.
Don’t ever say to someone that they’re going to grieve forever.
13. “Be thankful…”
Of course I’m thankful… I’m not NOT thankful for our life and love, but we weren’t done!
He’s not supposed to die yet!
I want more time!
14. “Your husband’s death is just like my divorce.”
Fuck no, it’s not.
Now there are similarities in the grief, so there’s that.
But, and giant fucking BUT… your kids maybe get to SEE your ex in flesh and blood.
It’s not the fucking same.
15. “You’re not over him yet?”
I’m never gonna be “over” him.
There is no getting “over” him.
There’s just moving forward.
But there IS healing.
Only YOU can do it.
And only when your ready… it’s never too soon or too late.
It’s just when you are, and you’ll know when you are…
And it starts with a free discovery call with me.
You are supposed to grieve when you suffer significant loss. And I’m sorry because I know from personal experience just how incredibly painful it is… BUT YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO GRIEVE FOREVER!
I can help… and it starts here: