“No man is an island… entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
– John Donne (1572-1631)
*Confusion *Shock *Horror *Wrenching Emotional Pain *Alone In Numbing Darkness *Anger *Painful Introspection *Halting Re-Entry *Slow Recovery
We want to support those who grieve. Most especially for people we’re close to. And we feel some pain as well. It might have been us instead of them. At some future time, it almost certainly will be us.
But all too often, the words used, while intending to be supportive, do not sooth and support at all. They may even feel hurtful to the person. Why?
Because they speak to a place that the grieving person has not yet occupied.
So any words telling the grief-stricken person that “soon it will be better” or “time heals,” are not going to feel comforting.
If you don’t know where that person is at in their process, say something very simple and neutral. And if it hasn’t been all that long since the physical death, or tragedies involving the death of something, like one’s health, career or marriage, than the likelihood that the person is on the recovery side of the trauma is remote.
Speaking to a place that is a little behind where this person is at will be OK. When we do so, the person might tell us that they did feel a lot that way, but now they are feeling more of something else, and you’ll notice that this place of which they speak is farther along in the recovery process.
So do express condolences and support… with sensitivity, wisdom and compassion born out of being supportive of their emotions rather than your own.
– Richard Chandler
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