Clichés to Avoid When Talking to the Bereaved


Sasha J. Mudlaff, M.A.

“It was God’s will”
“It’s a blessing”
“God needs him/her more than you do”
Human beings do not have the omniscience to determine the will of God, and most bereaved will not care anyway. Such  statements paint God as a cruel and vicious force that would tear a person away from those who loved him/her without any consideration for the survivor.

“I know just how you feel”
Each person is unique, and every relationship is also one-of-a-kind. We cannot possibly know how someone else feels when a death occurs because that is a relationship we will never experience.

“It has been three weeks since he/she died. aren’t you over it yet?”
There is no way to put a time limit on grief. It is generally agreed that the grieving process takes six months to two years, although some may grieve for longer or shorter periods of time.

“Be grateful you still have other children”
A grieving parent will always miss the child who died, even though there are other children present. It does not take away from the love given to the living children; it simply reflects the loss of that particular relationship.

“God picks the most beautiful flowers first”
This implies that those of us who are still living, including the bereaved, are not beautiful in the eyes of God. It also shows, again, that God is uncaring about the pain inflicted on the survivors. Continue reading “Clichés to Avoid When Talking to the Bereaved”

Sudden Versus Anticipated Death

by Peggy Sweeney

Peggy Sweeney
Peggy Sweeney

No matter how our loved one died, we grieve. However, the manner in which the death happens will influence our grieving process. For instance, a heart attack, stroke, or a motor vehicle accident are examples of sudden death. Shock and disbelieve are often our first reactions. When I received a phone call from a family friend that my dad had a heart attack and was dead, I immediately hung up the phone and dialed my parents’ home because I knew the person who had called must have been mistaken. Sadly, they were not.

When death occurs as the result of a long-term illness or injury, the levels of shock and disbelief may be less intense than they are with a sudden death, because we have known for some time of the imminent death. Nevertheless, when someone we love is slowly dying because of cancer, heart disease, a brain injury, or Alzheimer’s disease, we may find ourselves surprised when his or her death occurs. This is not an abnormal response, but rather a belief that as long as there is life there is hope. Continue reading “Sudden Versus Anticipated Death”

Grief ~~ A Natural Response to Loss

by Annell Decker, LPC

Annell Decker

Grief applies to the loss of a loved one to death, certainly. It is also a natural and normal human response to any big change in life. Even if we initiate the change (new job or house) and there are advantages. Moving is one of the biggest, requiring changes in:  friends, medical care, resources, finances, many everyday securities that give us a sense of “home.” Those who are, or have been, in the military or clergy work experience regular moves. Other changes include: changing jobs, losing a job, divorce, changes in the family, chronic medical conditions, trauma such as physical or sexual assault, medical or physical handicaps. You can probably think of many more.

What can you do about the feelings of sadness, anger, fear, resentment or confusion? First of all, accept that your feelings are real and valid. Feelings are not bad, they just are. What you do about them can have negative or positive results. Talk to people you trust & who care about you. Write in a journal or make a chart of advantages, disadvantages, or whatever works for you. Putting your thoughts down on paper is very therapeutic. Other ideas are to pray, draw or paint. Continue reading “Grief ~~ A Natural Response to Loss”

Listening Is An Act of Love

by Beth Rotondo

Beth RotondoIn grief, the heart is traumatized.  Everything it knew for sure is thrown up in the air, unanchored, grasping for familiarity.  The mind is also traumatized.  It looks for answers, for sureness, for the past, for right and wrong.  This confusing and tumultuous time is what people who are grieving experience moment by moment, day by day, week by week, month by month.  It is exhausting, constantly changing, overwhelming and frightening.  This may seem “dramatic” to someone who hasn’t experienced a significant loss.  Many people find it strange that the griever is “still” grieving after all this time, and the griever may feel those same feelings.   People want to help and there are various ways to do that.  One of the simplest and most profound ways is listening. Continue reading “Listening Is An Act of Love”

The Irony and Inconsistency of Grief

by Charles W. Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

1026Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart. Don’t scratch for answers that cannot be given now. The point is to try to live everything. Live the questions for now. Perhaps then, someday far into the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. – Rainer Maria Rilke (German-Language Poet)

When life turns difficult, a common way of trying to get around the pain is to try to think our way out of the situation. The problem with this is that it assumes the process of effectively dealing with emotional upset and spiritual challenges is linear, sort of like a Betty Crocker recipe, in that one step necessarily follows another in order to get the desired outcome. The truth is that the process of inner healing is inherently non-linear and is often contradictory. When things do get better and our inner struggle eases for a while, we often don’t know how or why we feel better, we just do. Have you ever gone to sleep with a problem on your mind and awakened not troubled by it anymore? As the saying goes, “What a difference a day makes!” Nothing about your problem changed, you just went to sleep.

Our mood and therefore our perspective change constantly, and that has much to do with the way we process the problems that come our way. Sometimes we wake up feeling great and ready to face the day’s challenges. On these days, problems that come up don’t bother us too much. We process them easily because we approach them from a positive perspective and keep moving along. The very next day (or even hour), we may feel totally different. The world seems to be spinning in the wrong direction and it seems that everyone is working against us. In addition to affecting the way we handle the daily problems that arise, our moods and our perspective affect the way we handle the big problems in our lives. This is especially true regarding the way we process grief, the pain involved in losing someone or something very important to us. Continue reading “The Irony and Inconsistency of Grief”