Do 2 Year Olds Understand When You Talk To Them What Not to Say and What to Say to Someone Who is Mourning

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What Not to Say and What to Say to Someone Who is Mourning

We need each other, especially in times of need. And it is important to never forget that human interaction is the very essence of living a happy life. The positive outcome of that interaction is always based on respectful and supportive communication – saying the right things at the right time.

Some people seem to be especially blessed with the ability to be able to connect. Others have a habit of saying the wrong things at the wrong time. The result in terms of grief is that the mourner is often hurt more, and tends to withdraw from certain people at a time when social support is a crucial need.

Here are some comments that have been made that should be kept private. Next we’ll look at some of the more helpful responses.

1. “You’ll find someone else (or another good friend)” or “It can’t be that bad.” These comments are often made to young widows or widowers or to teenagers who have lost a friend. Sometimes it is prefaced: “You are still young ….” They hurt deeply.

2. “At least you have other kids.” The assumption that it is a comfort to have other children ignores that this particular child is gone and was dearly loved.

3. “You’re going to be okay” or “I understand what you’re going through.” The sorrow of every man

is unique because every relationship with a loved one is unique. No one understands.

4. “He is in a better place” or “It is God’s will.” We do not understand the deep beliefs that a particular person may have. The deceased is not here is the point, and what God would want such a thing, may be the thoughts of many mourners.

5. “You’ll get over it” or “It’s been a long time, don’t you think you should get over it?” No one tops it; they integrate and live with it in their daily lives.

6. “Time heals all wounds” or “Just put it out of your mind.” As a friend who lost her 17-year-old son said, “Time doesn’t heal all wounds unless you work in between the minutes.” For the caregiver, it means allowing the mourner a lot of repetition and retelling of the story. And, no one forgets.

7. “It could be worse, so don’t feel so bad” or “Don’t talk about it.” This minimizes one’s grief and is a veiled way of saying get over it. It is critical that the

bereavement should be encouraged to talk about it and express feelings.

8. “It’s been over a year now. Don’t you think you should let this go?” or “You can’t bring him back.” There are no time limits for grief and it is very normal for it to revisit. It could revisit periodically for the rest of life. Stating the obvious is humiliating for the bereaved.

All of the above comments have two things in common. The first is a lack of awareness of what constitutes normal grief. The second is those who use these remarks, it is difficult to be around someone in pain. Grief is a lonely feeling to begin with–no matter how many people are around you–and all these comments do is reinforce the loneliness for the mourner.

Here are some alternative considerations with a more need-fulfilling view.

1. “I wish there was something I could say to ease your pain.”

2. “I’m so sorry.” (Some people don’t like this after hearing it so often.)

3. “Do you feel like talking now or maybe at some other time?”

4. “It’s okay to cry whenever you feel like it. Please don’t hold it back.”

5. “How’s your day going?”

6. “What kind of day are you having?” (If the mourner gives the usual answer of

ok, make good eye contact and say, “How’s it really going?”) You will be

surprised at the response you get.

7. “Would you like me to stay or do you prefer to have time alone?”

8. Sometimes, a hug, with nothing said can be all that is needed at that particular time.

Remember more than 90% of a message that is communicated is non-verbal. That is, your facial expression, eye contact and other body movements deliver most of the message. Your intention to give comfort, not fix what you can’t fix, will come through in your non-verbal communication. Always approach grief with respect, and the belief that the person is responsible for their grief, and will teach you how he/she feels. Be a student.

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