The bereaved spend so much time being shushed and made to feel like we cannot share because it’s too sad, too uncomfortable, too inappropriate. We are quieted by people, with solutions, the want to gloss over with positivity, the need to correct, to answer. Even with “good intentions”, certain things just hurt.
When we are sharing our grief, whether we are sharing it with you alone, or publicly, it is exhausting for us. We aren’t just sharing our thoughts, our longing, and our hurt. We are making ourselves even more vulnerable in doing so. We are placing our most intricate, delicate, and intense feelings and emotions in front of another or others who haven’t lived even one second of OUR lives.
Do you know what it means to hold space for someone? It is attempting to listen without judgement, without trying to solve, correct, or impose. You are allowing space for a hurting person to fill without trying to immediately empty it with a patronizing solution, toxic positivity, or meaningless innocuous expression. Because even if we are sharing, it gives you no right to diminish our grief by assessing it. Advice comes from a need to control a situation. If we aren’t asking you for feedback, it isn’t warranted.
Before commenting or remarking, ask yourself… is what you’re about to say going to help this person? Is it going to respect their process of grieving? Will it let them know they are seen and supported? Will it show them that their feelings are valid? If it’s not a yes to these questions, don’t say it.
Acknowledging the pain, vulnerability, and depth of a persons grieving can be confusing or uncomfortable. We understand this. You can tell us you don’t know what to say. You can tell us you’re sorry for our loss, you can tell us you wish you could change this for us. You can say our hurt makes you hurt. Just don’t add a preposition or hollow, suppressive, surface level reproduction of some toxic positivity. And if none of this feels right in response, simply listening and telling us you’ve heard us, is validation and support.