Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Top Ten

One of my favorite blogs that I read is having quite an interesting discussion about a controversial book that a lot of Christian's are reading. In these discussions, the subject of grief came up. I commented to Elizabeth, the blog owner, that after I had my miscarriages, I wanted to write a book called "101 Things Not To Say To A Grieving Person". She told me I should at least do a blog post on the subject. So here you go Elizabeth :). I obviously won't write 101 things, as this would be the longest blog post in history, but I will name the top ten. I have talked with many people who have gone through times of grief, and amazingly we seemed to always talk about comments that people have made that were supposed to be words of comfort, but instead came across as downright awful. These top ten were ones that were always mentioned as being the comments that were the most painful. So here they are...

1. "It was God's will"
This is probably the number one thing we heard from people when we were going through our losses. It was one of the most painful too because it automatically makes a person start questioning God. Even if you believe this way, don't say that to someone who is grieving!

2. "God had a reason for this"
Again, even if that is how you believe, it is no comfort to the person. All it does is make the person more likely to blame God.

3. "All things work together for good..."
This is from Romans 8:28. The Bible can be a wonderful tool of comfort. Just not verses like this. The person is not seeing any good at that time, they just see their pain.

4. "To everything there is a season. A time to weep, a time to mourn, a time to die..."
Taken from Ecclesiastes 3. Again, another Bible passage that just isn't a comfort to someone who just lost a loved one. If you want to use scripture to bring comfort, use comforting scriptures! Scriptures like Psalm 147:3 "He will heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds". Or Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit".

5. "God just needed your loved one in heaven".
I heard this one for the first time at a funeral for a baby who died of SIDS. I wasn't even married yet, and I was horrified by this. It didn't seem comforting at all.

6. "It was better this way"
I have heard this one a number of times. I remember overhearing it after finding out a woman I knew had given birth to twins when she was only 5 along. They were born too early, and died shortly after birth. Someone at church said that it was better that they died, because had they lived, they could have had multiple health problems. I also heard this after one of my friends lost one of her twins in the womb. Several commented that her financial state wasn't very good, so it was better this way. I had a lot of people tell me this with the miscarriages. They said that God was saving me from heartbreak because the babies could have been born with health problems. Even if that were true, which probably was not the case, that was not comforting at all.

7. "God had a plan in your loved one dying"
Again, even if you believe that way, don't say it!

8. This is a common thing said to those who have miscarried..."At least it happened early on, and not when you were farther along." To that person who lost that child, that child was still a huge part of them, no matter what the age.

9. I never heard this one because I didn't have any other born children at the time, but I have heard a lot of other mothers complain about this statement made to them after they lost a child.."You can be thankful for the children that you do have." Again, a true statement, but no comfort whatsoever in that person's time of pain.

10. "God will never give you more than you can handle"
This is also from scripture, and probably one of the most frequently used "words of comfort". It is also one of the worst! At that time, a person going through grief really feels like it IS more than they can handle!

Grief is unfortunately a part of life. If you know someone who has lost a loved one, your best way to comfort them is to say as little as possible. Saying something like, "I am so sorry for your loss" or "I will be praying for you and your family" or "If you need anything at all, please don't hesistate to call" is way more of a comfort. You can't take away that person's pain, but you can help by not adding to it.


Daisy said...

That was very informative ... thank you! There have been lots of deaths the last year, and I never know what to say. Words won't come to me, so I usually try to listen, give a hug and say nothing or say "I'm sorry.". Sometimes I wonder if saying "nothing" is cold? I don't know. I just don't know what to say when someone is grieving. I am at a total loss for words. Grief is a hard thing.

SchnauzerMom said...

Thanks for sharing this. I will keep it in mind.

Elizabeth said...

Jen: This was fantastic and so very helpful. Thank you for writing it. It was interesting that sometimes the most common things to say like: "I'm sorry for your loss" are the best things. Sometimes I think we try to get all spiritual on the grieving person and like you pointed out, it can sometimes do more harm than good. Thank you for sharing this!

With Love,
Elizabeth Esther

Jen said...

Hi Daisy! I'm not sure if anyone ever has the right words to say to someone who is grieving, but I believe it is best to say very little. Just saying, "I'm so sorry" many times is enough. You are doing the best thing by giving them a hug and listening. That is the best response of all!

Elizabeth, thank you for responding! I so appreciate your feedback, and thank you for what you wrote. Thank you also for the encouragement to write the post in the first place :).

Jules said...

Hi Jen, another comment I've heard (and which is similar to ones that you've mentioned) is, "The body has it's own way of getting rid of a baby with problems." This seems to imply that only those babies that are perfect and healthy are loved! Even comments such as "They're in a better place" or "At least you'll see them again" while offering a measure of hope do not do anything to alleviate the grief. I suspect a lot of the time, people want to offer comfort but are uncomfortable with grief which is why they pull out these phrases. Years ago I read a very informative book written for parents whose children had all died (mostly due to miscarriage or being stillborn). It had so many things on what not to say etc and I wish I could remember the name of it. It certainly opened my eyes!

Jen said...

Jules, I heard that comment about the body getting rid of a baby with problems a lot when we lost our babies. I'm not sure why anyone thinks that is comforting! I know that people mean well, they just need to be careful what they say, because they can actually cause even more pain. It sounds like the book you read was really helpful in teaching what not to say to those who are grieving.

Wendy said...

What's worse is hearing those comments from our parents.

My mom: 'You were just working so hard on that project. Your body just couldn't keep up.' Um ... no, Mom, I didn't kill my baby by working hard.

His mom: 'Maybe you weren't really pregnant. Maybe you were just really late.' Um ... no, MIL, there were two lines on that pregnancy test 6 weeks ago.

The BEST advice that I received was from a friend who'd had several miscarriages. She said that people will say terribly hurtful things, when they think they are being comforting. She said to accept the good will and forgive the wrong words. That's what took the sting out of so many of those comments.

Also, the BEST thing another friend did was to send flowers. She also called around the time that I was due. I was, unfortunately, able to return the favor about a year later.

Thank you for your post!!

Jim said...

I've had someone try to share there miscarriage experience. I didn't want to hear it. The best I hear was something like "No platitudes just hugs and prayers."

Jen said...

Hi Wendy. Thank you for your comment! I can relate very much to what you wrote. I had several family members say the same kinds of things. It was pretty painful. Your friend's words of advice were very good. We just have to remember that people aren't trying to be hurtful, they just don't know what to say.

Jim, I'm not exactly sure what you mean in what you wrote. Could you explain more?