After the loss of a loved one, it's hard for us to know what to say to other people. Often others feel awkward and at a loss for words when they are approaching us, as the newly bereaved. Sometimes, they will even cross the road to avoid us, usually because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing and upsetting us. Many people find it very difficult to hear about loss because they don't know how to deal with it themselves. Those who have a lot of empathy find it particularly difficult because they will feel your pain.
For the bereaved, it is also often easier to avoid people as we don't know how to respond when people ask us how we are feeling or say something to us that we find difficult or confronting. Neither do we wish to make our friends or family feel awkward or embarrassed. It is often a situation where neither side know what to say for the best.
When we greet neighbours, acquaintances and friends in normal circumstances, we have the usual short exchanges - "How are you?", "I'm fine, thank you, doing some shopping for my son's birthday" or similar. After a loss, these normal conversations seem all wrong and loaded with meaning. The last thing you feel like doing is tell them how you really are and if you do, you risk them avoiding you in the future. So how do you navigate these encounters?
When you get these awkward greetings after your loss, try to be patient and tolerant. Remember the person talking to you will be finding it difficult to find the correct words of comfort and get it wrong unintentionally.
They mean well. Take a deep breath and have a few responses in your mind. Keep things simple and contact short, you may say you have a meeting or appointment to go to.
Please do not let your concerns about these encounters prevent you from going out for walks or shopping. It will help your well being to keep busy and get exercise.
About a month after my husband died suddenly I was at a meeting. A friend came up to me and said, "Where is your husband tonight?". Everyone around me who knew, gasped. I took a deep breath and said quietly, "I'm sorry to tell you that he died suddenly". The friend who has asked had such a shocked look that I reached out and hugged her. She and her husband had been away for the last month and she hadn't heard.
I could have cried and run off home, but it would have made the situation worse and upset a lot of people. So take a couple of deep breaths, give a gentle response and get on with life.
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going" comes to mind.
There are many times when we need to unload how we really feel. Save these times for close friends you can trust.
Yes, there will be occasions when you feel tearful and can't stop them flowing. Just say, "sorry" and people understand. They expect you to be upset and tears are good.
We all know the person who when asked "how are you?" will spend an hour telling everyone they meet all their innermost problems. They obviously need help, but an encounter in a shopping mall or the street is not the place. If you find yourself doing that yourself, consider seeing your doctor, your minister, or a counsellor who are in a much better position to help you.
We recommend the experts at Betterhelp who provide grief counseling online, so you have complete privacy and flexibility in the comfort of your own home. See below.
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Make sure there is plenty of space to plant this majestic oak tree. They can grow to 70 feet tall. But what a memorial it would be for a loved one.
One of the most popular trees of all time, they will grow for hundreds of years making a beautiful living monument to the deceased.
Keep the ashes of your loved one close to your heart with this sterling silver engraved pendant.
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