People can say and do really dumb things.
And people can REALLY say and do really dumb things to people who are hurting.
I get it. People have no idea what losing someone is like. It’s uncharted territory for most people, and that’s a good thing. I’m GLAD you haven’t lost someone! Because it sucks.
But what can make a painful situation even more painful is when people don’t know what to do or say around someone who has faced a big loss.
I’ve found people are great when it first happens, they are shocked, compassionate, helpful.
But months later? No one is devastated or shocked.
I will tell people I haven’t met before about my husband dying and they say I’m sorry and then we all just MOVE ON IN THE CONVERSATION.
It’s makes me think, did you HEAR what I said? My husband DIED.
Oh man, no one, NO ONE told me three months would be harder than three weeks.
Now I’m not asking for people to sob on the spot but they can at least look me in the eyes and acknowledge my suffering.
As Americans we are horribly, horribly unequipped for supporting people who are suffering. And though it’s so hurtful, I don’t blame them. BECAUSE NO ONE TEACHES US THIS!
So here’s a lesson on what to say when you find out someone has lost someone.
FIRST STEP: Say:
“Wow. I am so sorry.”
(And mean it.)
SECOND STEP: Say:
“What was their name?”
(You’d be amazed how many people don’t even ask their name. This is so important and so supportive. A random person didn’t die, MY person died. And he had a name, and a family, and a job, and a personality– just like you.)
THIRD STEP: Ask them how to move forward. You could say something like:
“Wow that’s so hard. Would you mind me bringing (name of loved one) up to you? I’d love to hear more about them.”
“I don’t know what to say but that must be so hard. I want you to know that I’m not great at this but I want to support you. Feel free to bring up (name of loved one) whenever something crosses your mind. I’d love to hear it.”
And again, mean it.
Now that won’t work in everyone situation but hopefully it can give you a framework for how to respond when someone shares a tragedy with you. Press in, don’t avoid. Say something. Mean it. Read their eyes, their body language. Love them well. Don’t be afraid of awkward. Besides, awkward is nothing compared to losing someone.
Click here to follow my blog with Bloglovin.
Recent posts from Andrea Enright: