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Devaki Sokaris

Live the life your soul wants


Grief is many things: death, illness, hardship, loss of career, relationships and possessions. Grief is a part of our lives but when it happens, we react in disbelief, experiencing shock even when a loved one is extremely ill, one’s possessions become fragile, or a relationship is very rocky. We are never really prepared for it.

People have many fears and phobias about death so much as they will avoid words like died or death and use terms like passed away or lost.

I was a nurse for twenty years of my life, and we were never taught how to deal with people who were grieving which was absurd given we had to deal with it often.

Because of this people would say the worst things in their attempt to help another feel better. I witnessed many reactions from relatives and patients on the receiving end of these platitudes.

I never felt to say anything but rather just sit with patients or relatives and be there to respond to them with whatever they wanted to talk or not talk about. I never offered advice or gave them false hope.

Through life experience, self-awareness, and observation I found my own way to help those who were grieving. You can’t fix people who are grieving they need to grieve, so let them. Be there, listen, don’t judge and don’t offer advice. Grieving people do not need your advice or your pity, they need your compassion and support.

Among what not to say to a grieving person are:

  1. a.They are in a better place now.
  2. b.At least their suffering is over.
  3. c.I know how you feel. I remember when…
  4. d.At least you have other children.
  5. e.It was god's will.
  6. f.Everything happens for a reason.
  7. g.We are never given more than we can handle.
  8. h.You need to be strong now.
  9. i.You can always get another…

Grief changes people in many ways they may not expect, and they may not recognize until they have lived through it. Each person’s journey through grief is different and what comes from it is not understood until one has been through it. Grief is part of life and we will experience it in some way or form as we live our lives.

Platitudes ^

A platitude is a meaningless offering people use when they don’t know what else to say. It can and does make a person feel unheard or even worse. Platitudes anger people on the receiving end of them but many don’t notice the effect they have on others when they use them.

Platitudes keep people in a state of grief, anger, fear, sadness and guilt. We need to stop saying sorry for your loss. Saying you’re sorry for someone’s loss or suffering is a bit like saying I hope you have a nice day.

If people were more observant, they would see how this irritates people who are grieving. Most of these cliché responses have been programmed into people by society.

Platitudes don’t establish any trust or demonstrate empathy to a person in need. They are probably the worst thing you can use when someone is grieving or depressed.

You’ve got this is another overused cliché. Many people have not got this. Try saying that to a person who is grieving, extremely ill or has depression. Sorry for your suffering doesn’t help either.

Using these statements when counselling clients as well only shows poor skills which undermine what a person is feeling.

Compassion eases people’s suffering and does not offer empty statements. We need to use our word’s wisely. Communication that helps people in need is a skill that requires compassion, empathy and self-awareness. It doesn’t use trite.

Some common platitudes are:

  1. a.You’ve got this.
  2. b.I’m sorry for your loss.
  3. c.Just be yourself.
  4. d.Time heals all wounds.
  5. e.This time will pass.
  6. f.I’ll pray for you.

Some more platitudes are:

  1. a.It’s meant to be.
  2. b.It is what it is.
  3. c.Go with the flow.
  4. d.Just think how much worse other people have it.
  5. e.What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
  6. f.Every cloud has a silver lining.

Responding ^

Responding isn’t hard because there isn’t a lot you can say that will make them feel better, so don’t be afraid to use silence as one of the main problems with platitudes being used is the person is afraid of silence so feels they must respond with something.

If in doubt silence is best and a hug can be all that is needed to acknowledge their pain.

Be real in what you express. If you don’t know what to say, you can say to the person I don’t know what to say and can’t imagine how you must be feeling or This must be difficult for you and I can’t understand what you must be feeling now.

Compassionate listening is effective and all about letting them speak about what they are experiencing which can ease some of their suffering. It is not our job to fix people so a person who expresses their issue isn’t expecting you to fix it either as they just want someone to listen. If they want to talk about it they will.

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