Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Sympathy and grief

There is a lovely article in the New York Times about the art of condolence, or how to express sympathy, with some great advice, covering lessons I’ve learned from reading beautiful condolence notes from others, and through my own experiences, both good and bad.

I love that it says there is no time limit on sympathy, as I think we all know how easily the bereaved are forgotten. When my father died 11 years ago, and I got back to Wellington after the funeral, two friends arranged to take me out to lunch one weekend — that meant a lot to me.

I love too the “Get Real” advice, as sometimes “it sucks” is about the only thing that can be said.

These are lessons to remember when we look at others too. The “No Comparisons” advice is a good one, and one we all particularly need to remember in the infertility world, beset as we are with the Pain Olympics competitions (“I tried for many more years than you” or “my losses were worse than yours”), the accusations (“you chose not to have children, so what are you complaining about?”), and sometimes the inability to put your own shock and hurt, fears, or even jealousies aside. 

There’s another article that’s circulated in social media the last few years about the circles of grief, and this is also one that I’m sure we’ve all experienced at some stage, whether as the grieving or the perpetrator.

We all might know these things in theory, but they might not come to us when we need them most, and so I at least appreciate getting these regular reminders.



8 comments:

  1. Thanks for passing on these articles and for the reminder. It's awfully easy to go wrong when it comes to trying to speak to someone grieving a loss and these are really good suggestions. I really like the one about how it's never too late to send things. After my brother died, about 5 months later, his boss (who was a friend of his as well) sent some photos he'd found of my brother at some company events. I appreciated it more than I could say and it was nice to get them at a time after most of the condolences were done.

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  2. Thanks. I tend to send food but the other reminders were helpful. Grief is so personal.

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  3. I appreciate the reminders too! I'm often at a loss for words when someone is grieving.

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  4. That's a great article. I agree that being at a loss for words is more helpful than saying things like ‘he’s in a better place’ or 'God needed an angel' and all that. I also hate euphemisms - you die, you don't 'pass' or get lost. I had a few people in my family die and I was always fairly blunt about using 'die', 'dead' etc. Is it comforting for people to say 'pass'? Maybe it is. I'm hard, maybe. I love the idea that there's no time limit on sympathy, just as there's no time limit on grieving - there really isn't.

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  5. Those are great reminders. I LOVE the Kvetching Order ring. What great advice for those situations where you can be caught off guard and say the totally wrong thing to the wrong person. Grief definitely is so personal, and it touches all of us at one point or another. I was listening to NPR today and there was an author talking about how everything in our society serves to move us forward, not look back, and that is so not constructive all the time. It made me think of what you said about no time limits on sympathies, and allowing grieving people to look back as much as they want, for as long as they want. Thanks for this post and linking to the article -- great find.

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  6. Thanks for sharing. I think everyone could benefit from reading those. I actually hate the way people think short, quickly written facebook messages on someone's wall when someone dies are enough and don't offer any actual help to the person. A handwritten thoughtful card with a memory of the person is so much nicer for instance.

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  7. carole@mail.postmanllc.net

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  8. I liked these articles too. :) October is a tough month for me, grief-wise -- both my grandparents died in October (1998 & 1999), and my grandfather died just three days after I went back to work after my daughter was stillborn. It's been 18 years, and I still miss them so much!!

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