What Not To Say to People in Distress (2)
As we discussed in What
Not To Say to People in Distress (1), some people do more harm than
good when talking to the sad and bereaved. Don’t be one of them!
Although it’s not easy to spend time with a person who is broken-hearted
or chronically ill, we can certainly learn to make a huge difference
in the lives of our grieving friends and family if we just face up to
our own fears and speak from the heart.
- Death of a child
The death of a beloved child may come suddenly or after a long illness.
Either way, it is devastating to the parents, particularly as a child’s
death preceding that of its parents is viewed both consciously and
subconsciously as something that shouldn’t happen. It does not
“fit in” with the natural order of things. We do not understand
why one person may live to 99 and another to only 9. Hence this situation
is a source of one of the most painful experiences an adult can experience.
If you don’t know what to say when a friend or family member
goes through this trauma, don’t avoid them. Simply speak the
truth. Tell them: “I don’t know what to say.” Face
your own discomfort with the situation and think about how insignificant
it is compared to theirs. Again, as we discussed in What
Not To Say to People in Distress (1), reassure them that you will
be there for them. However if you do make this offer, do not make
it an empty one. If you say “I’ll ring you,” and
you don’t, you are only creating another source of grief for
an already overloaded person.
Although the grieving parents may have other children, do not remind
them of this fact. They already know they have other children, but
in the early stages of raw pain, their thoughts are purely on the
child they have lost. They want that child back. Trying to comfort
them with the existence of their other children will simply be irrelevant
during this time. They may even lash out in anger at you. Again, this
is normal. They want to think, talk, and cry about their lost child.
Please let them. Again, time will bring them back into the present
and therefore back into their future with will share with their remaining
As we all have to deal at some point in our lives with sad and bereaved
people, it would be wonderful if we could all look inside ourselves
to see what would help us if we were in the same situation. As a rule,
if you can access what is in your heart at the time, you will seldom
As Don Sibet once said:
“What comes from the heart, touches the heart.”
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