Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Please let me grieve

Hello Polite Readers!

I hate to be a downer, but today's topic is serious and sad. It's about how people deal with the fact that you're in mourning, and the platitudes they give you. You know the ones:

"He's in a better place now."
"Granny is with Grandpa now and they're both smiling at you from heaven."
"She's with God now."
"Fluffy will be waiting for you at the rainbow bridge!"

I have to admit, when I hear or read this sort of thing, it makes me want to say things that are not exactly polite. While this sort of sentiment may be welcome to the religious, and give them solace while they grieve, it can also be somewhat condescending, especially to the non-religious.

Let's face it... for the most part, when we grieve, we are not sad for the deceased. We either believe that they are in a better place and not sad, or that they are completely gone and incapable of sadness (I guess you may be sad for the deceased if you believe in reincarnation and suspect that their life choices will result in being bumped down to a less-savory life on their next turn of the wheel, but I'm not familiar enough with those belief systems to really say. Would someone like to chime in?). Regardless of what you believe, you're sad for yourself, because the person you love is gone. You're sad for the spouse, children, parents, siblings and friends they left behind. You're sad because you can't explain to your one dog where your other dog has gone. You are sad because you already bought the perfect Christmas present and now you'll never give it to them. You're mourning that hole in your life, and all the lost possibilities it represents.

Those who are on the outside, who know you but not the deceased, are often at a loss on how to react (especially for those of us who are a little younger and haven't had as much experience with grief), and that's when stupid things get said. This is not to excuse their stupidity, only to explain it. When faced with grief, there is really only one appropriate response:

"I am so sorry for your loss. Is there anything I can do?"

If you knew the deceased, you can put something nice about them in the middle of that statement. "He was such a good man" or "She was a great dog, I loved taking her for walks with you." But that's really all you need to say. Don't add any of the above religious sentiments unless you genuinely believe it AND you know that the mourner feels the same way. This is not an either/or situation, both conditions must be met. Do not express false sentiments, and do not insult the mourner by applying your morality to them. Oh, and it should go without saying that don't you dare ever, ever say that the deceased is going to hell because of their bad life. If you do that, I will give you the most Politely Worded tearing down that has ever been given.

Oh, but what if you are the mourner on the receiving end of this empty sentiment? Well, for one thing, you're in mourning. You may say pretty much whatever you want, though do your best not to say anything that you might regret once you are on the road back to happiness. Don't suggest that someone do something anatomically impossible, no matter how tempting it may be. Sometimes the best response is a cool, icy look while saying nothing (or on FB, acknowledging all of the heartfelt wishes and ignoring the stupid ones).

I hope that none of you need this advice any time soon. I hope that you suffer no painful losses, and if you do, that those around you treat you with love and respect during your grief.

Do you have your own sticky situation that needs a Politely Worded response? Email me at and I may answer it on this blog!

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