Before I get into this post, I want to be very clear about my intentions. I am not mad at anyone, and I in no way want to shame someone who has said something that might have found me in a bad place to receive it. Please don’t comb through our past conversations to try and figure out if you said something offensive. If you hurt my feelings, I’ve said something to you and forgiven you. Grief is a difficult thing to go through, and it leaves those grieving in a hard place emotionally, struggling to have grace, and those brave enough to offer comfort groping for something appropriate to say. What I’m trying offer is a little insight into some commonly used phrases that hurt me unintentionally, and to offer some alternatives.
When someone that you love is going through a loss, please be careful about your “comforting phrases”, and your words in general. We have so many phrases in our language that are meant well, but that hurt. Someone who has gone through a loss is in a really tender place, and we don’t have a whole ton of patience, with ourselves or anyone else. (And please remember that all grief is unique. These phrases are those that I’ve found to be hard to deal with, but the person that you love that has been through loss may not be bothered by them.)
- “You’ll get pregnant again.”- Although I know what you mean by this phrase, there are no guarantees. And if I get pregnant again, another baby will not replace the one I lost. I will mourn Cora’s loss until the day I’m reunited with her in heaven. When you say this, I feel like you’re telling me that another baby will replace my Cora. I know that you’re trying to tell me that there is hope that I will have a baby in my arms at the end of a future pregnancy, but it hurts right now.
- “I just want you to be happy again.”- There is a time for sadness, and I need you to allow me to be sad. Encourage me to see positivity, but this phrase feels like you’re pressuring me to “feel happy”. That is very likely to make me feel a need to “act happy” around you, and to limit my ability to be real with you today. I will be happy some days, but other days, I won’t be. Please let me be real.
- “Time heals all wounds.” Not true. Time makes infected wounds much, much worse. Time with Jesus heals all wounds. We’re still left with a scar even when a wound is healed.
- “Aren’t you over this already?” I don’t want to “get over” this. To me, getting over her would be forgetting her. I won’t forget her. My pain will lesson, and I will grow accustomed to living without her, but I will not forget.
Phrases that you could use instead:
- “You’re still a mother even though she’s not here. I know you loved her, and that nothing can take her place in her heart.”
- “It’s okay for you to tell me that you’re sad. I do plan on encouraging you to practice being positive sometimes when it seems like you’re in a very dark place. Is that okay?”
- “I’ll be here with you as you go through this.”
- “I know that grief lasts a long time.”
It’s okay if you’ve gone through loss and don’t agree with me.
It’s okay if you want to say something and don’t know what to say. But, please. Please, please, please say something. I would personally rather have someone say something that I take the wrong way than have someone be silent and not say anything. Silence makes it feel like we’re pretending that they didn’t exist. And that hurts the worst of all.
If you don’t know what to say, you can say that. “There are no words” is so powerful when it’s spoken in honesty. Not much is going to make me feel better, and you’re not responsible for my comfort. God is. You are responsible for helping support me as part of my community, but my happiness and joy does not hinge on you. And if you hurt my feelings and I ask you to not say something, or if you’ve said something listed above, don’t carry hurt feelings or guilt for a long time. We’re all human. I’ve said some really, really stupid things, and I’ve carried regret for them for such a long time. Apologize, and then forgive yourself.
Do you disagree with me? Do you agree with me? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.
May we all have grace with each other as we mourn and try to comfort those who mourn.
Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. Know someone that this series may touch? Share as you see fit.
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