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The Thoughtless Things People Say at Funerals (2)
By: Beth McHugh 2007
Continuing our theme on the thoughtless things people say at funerals, I have to mention here the case of Helen, who visited her friend whose mother had died.
On the morning of the funeral, Helen arrived at her friend’s place with a pot of African violets and said: “I can’t go to the funeral, I’m getting my haircut at that time”. It doesn’t take a genius to imagine the hurt that this woman’s callousness caused. This is case where a white lie would have been more than justified. How can a haircut be more important than going to a funeral to support the friend?
But back to the thoughtless comments of our last article: the “you’ll have another one” in the case of the dead infant, and “he had a long life” in the case of the dead father.
Why do these people say these comments when they could offer something more appropriate like a hug and an admission that the deceased will be missed? I’m sure not all of these people are emotionally dead themselves so it must be fear driving their reactions in many cases. Fear that if they touch on the reality of the situation, the newly bereaved may break down and then they are forced to comfort them?
Or perhaps it’s their own fear. Fear that if they acknowledge a death they will have to acknowledge and relive their own losses from the past which are deeply buried. Or fear that they are frightened that one of their own parents could die and how will they handle it. Fear that they could lose a child or spouse of their own?
For whatever reason, the people who make these thoughtless comments at funerals or around the time of death are either simply unable to empathies at all with the bereaved or are too frightened of their own vulnerability to actually engage the bereaved on a real level. The latter is sad because, at these times, we all need to feel that we are not alone. That others understand our pain. This makes the grieving easier, that others have gone before us and survived the pain.
To deprive the bereaved of this comfort when it is such a valuable
gift to share your own grief and humanness is so unnecessary when there
is so much to be gained by sharing yourself and your own darkest moments.
Revisiting them will not hurt you, it will have the potential to deepen
your friendships, be a genuine comfort to others and grow as a person.
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