Here’s something many of us feel, but no one really talks about: Social awkwardness after a friend, colleague, acquaintance, or loved one dies.
If you have ever found yourself in this situation, you are not alone! Social awkwardness doesn’t always apply to a death, it can apply to a loss. Loss of a relationship, pet, and even more. Bottom line, people can and do grieve a lot of things. Grief is personal and everyone processes loss differently.
I’m sure we have all heard these sayings, whether we were at a funeral home or talking with others.
- Everything happens for a reason.
- I know how you feel.
- They’re in a better place.
- I understand, my pet died too.
- Time heals everything.
- Remember the good.
- They wouldn’t want you to be sad.
- At least they lived a long life.
- At least they had a good life.
- Let me know if there is anything I can do.
Sound familiar? Heck, I know there have been times that these clichés have passed my lips. After years of being in deathcare and understanding grief, I have both observed and learned a few things. Here is a short list of what people have told me they internally thought, but never voiced when people didn’t think beyond the moment.
- Grief is #grief. You can make it better; you can’t fix it. All you can do is offer support and empathy. Listen, don’t solve it. Everyone processes each of the five stages differently and on their own timeline.
- Allow people to be sad…or even happy. The loss may have been necessary. Maybe bittersweet. It’s not ours to judge. Whatever the case is, please don’t make them feel they should suppress their emotions.
- While you may have suffered a loss that was similar, don’t assume you know how they feel.
- You might adhere to a religious or spiritual belief, but not everyone shares that perspective. In such instances, expressing intentions to pray for someone or leaving things in the hands of a higher power could have unintended consequences, despite the well-meaning intentions.
- If you didn’t know the deceased person and are there to support an extended family member, offer condolence. Try to refrain from saying, “I’m sorry for your loss”, because you’re not. You didn’t know the individual; however, you may be sad that they are going through a difficult time.
- If the deceased lived a long time – they may have had no quality of life and death could be a relief.
Let’s face it, no one means to upset someone who is grieving. They may not even have realized they did. Sometimes, silence, a head nod, hug, or simply your presence is all that needs to be said. Instead of saying, “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help”, after the dust has settled, just show up. Your assistance will be most appreciated when they find themselves alone after everyone else has left. Consider leaving a card or a note accompanied by a gift card to Starbucks or Panera. Even better, take them out for a meal. It doesn’t need to be big, nor does it need to be a meal, it can be a movie to escape, bowling with friends, golf, or simply a walk. Just show up!
Be sure to check out Episode 14 of my podcast, I Woke Up Dead…Now What?, to learn more!