When someone close to you is grieving, you have to be very careful what you say to them.
I lost my partner two years ago and amongst the obvious grief that I felt, what made it worse was some of the comments I received during those two years. My boyfriend died in hospital of cancer, and we received the diagnosis that it was terminal only one month after we had started dating.
Literally all of our time together had been spent getting unfavourable MRI scan results, more bad news over the telephone from consultants, and what were the best kinds of palliative care available.
When he died, many people sought to ‘advise’ me, as if I had a problem that would go away with the right kind of guidance.
These snippets of counselling included:
‘At least, you were prepared for his death’.
‘Everything happens for a reason’.
‘It was meant to be’.
‘Remember the good times you had together’.
‘At least, he is in a better place now’.
‘He is not suffering anymore’.
‘It’s been two years, you should be getting over it by now’.
‘You’ve got closure now’.
Some of these comments made me really angry. But then I wondered how hard it must have been for people to be around me at that time.
Experts say that when you grieving, you go through a process.
The specific stages of grief are:
Because I received many inappropriate comments regarding the death of my boyfriend, I found I remained in the ‘anger’ stage for a long time.
So what should you say to someone who has recently lost a loved one?
I think that Western European countries, such as Spain and Italy have got it about right. They recognise that grief is a natural process of life and do not hide away from it. Communities come together and ease the grieving person through the stages, as they know that they will also face this situation at some point in their life. They know it is not a problem to be solved, it is a time for reflection, for sorrow, for expressing emotions, a time to be sad in whatever way that is necessary.
So if someone I know had lost their partner, or family member, or a friend, I would say:
“I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine what you are going through. I am here for you, in whatever way you need, for as long as you need. You are not alone.”
Grief cannot be hurried. It cannot be solved, and it has its own time scale. You never really get over the loss of a loved one. What does happen is that you learn, slowly, to live without them.
When my boyfriend died I didn’t know how I was going to carry on. Knowing I would never see him ever again, never listen to his voice, never watch him play the guitar again, never talk to him for hours at night.
The first few days after he died I merely existed. Then weeks appeared to have gone by. Then months. And then one day the sun shone on my face and I remember feeling the warmth and thinking it was nice.
Now two years later I still miss him like crazy. I haven’t gotten over the loss of him in my life, but I am living my life again without him. Sure, it would be a much, much better life with him in it, but life goes on.
So remember that if someone close to you is grieving, this is the time they need you the most. And if you can’t think of something to say, then just being there with them will be much better than saying something inappropriate.
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