Why we need to change our grief vocabulary – part II
Welcome to part two of my grief vocabulary mini series.
In the first part, I wrote about what to say to someone who is grieving and why. In today’s post, I want to talk about what not to say and more importantly, the right attitude to go with expressing your sorrow. I have written before about what not to say and I have a whole section dedicated to those terrible phrases in my book ‘How to survive a miscarriage’ because they need to be gone !!
I am talking about phrases such as ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’ or ‘at least you lost it early’ or ‘miscarriage is very common’.
Yeah, those shit phrases that help nothing and hurt a lot.
This post here though, I want to talk about attitude when trying to express our sorrow to grieving families.
I can’t help but notice often that people are quite condescending when they try and comfort a loss mum. It’s as if they are on a high horse where they just know so much better although they have never been in that situation where they lost a baby.
That is where we need a lot less attitude and a lot more kindness and compassion.
See, comforting any grieving person is really quite simple.
The first and most important thing to remember is – it is not about you. It is about them.
It is not about what you think they should do or how you think they should feel.
It is not about a well-meant pat on the back and a ‘you’ll be right’.
It is not about belittling their pain but taking it seriously.
And how would you do that, you ask?
By being honest and kind. Let yourself be guided by positive emotions when comforting any grieving person and not fear or disgust or any insecurity you may have. Those emotions cause you to be condescending or even a tad arrogant.
And we don’t want that.
So, stick to ‘I’m so sorry’ or ‘I don’t know what to say’ and silence. Give a hug instead of a pat on the back.
It’s the simple things that count so we can change how we talk and act on grief and to really comfort the grieving.
10 thoughts on “Why we need to change our grief vocabulary – part II”
I’m a loss mom too and this post really hit home. I lost a set a twins to PTL at 21 weeks gestation. I then went on to have 2 early losses before meeting my rainbow in 2015. I often get told : well at least you have HER. Sure, I have a living baby. Sure, I’m now a mum in the physical sense but that in no way lessens the pain of what can before her.
Thank you for writing this. This topic is such an important one.
I’m so sorry for your losses, Jenny. And I’m also sorry you were told such insensitive nonsense. Yes, you have a gorgeous rainbow but she doesn’t replace your twins nor should she. It’s not how this works! We want all our babies with us. We love them equally. We are just in the heartbreaking situation where not all of them are with us. 🙁
This is a great reminder to folks to be compassionate and to consider how even some well meaning things can be hurtful to someone grieving.
Man, I couldn’t agree more than this. There is nothing anybody can say that will help someone deal with their grief so it truly is best to tell them how sorry you are and ask how you could help (if you’re close enough to the person). When I had my second miscarriage, it was the first one that people really knew what had happened to me. I couldn’t believe some of the things people said to me. My favorite was a couple of months after when someone very close told me it was time to “get over it.”
It’s often because we don’t know what to say, we say things that are hurtful. Good reminder to be thoughtful and rather stay silent than just say something that isn’t helpful at all… Thanks!
I completely agree with this. People need to realize that there isn’t a magic phrase that will make you feel better and that’s OK. A grieving person just needs to know that they’re not alone and that people are there to support them.
‘I don’t know what to say’ was the best thing for me when I got a miscarriage. I would have never known this if I didn’t go through that.
This is the second post I’ve read recently on how you can support a grieving mother and it amazes me the things that people will say/think are okay. But you mentioned insecurity in this post and I think that can be a big part of it–people are insecure in how to be supportive. Posts like this are so necessary and will hopefully help others support their friends and family. Thank you for sharing!
Posts like this need to be written. Thank you for sharing. Others sometimes forget to just give a hug or listen. It is that simple! Thanks again for sharing your heart!