It has been a month since my brother died. The circumstances of his sudden death were tragic, leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions.
I had the awful job of notifying my elderly parents who lived oceans away that their firstborn was no longer in this world. Their guttural cries pierced and hurt me more than the news of my brother’s death.
Once the news spread a steady stream of relatives and friends started pouring into my parents’ home brimming with grief.
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I am thankful that there were many kind people. Some offered their sincere condolences over the phone. Others came in person to console my parents and sit with them.
They brought food and made sure they ate. They put their lives on hold and tried to help in any way they could. They listened and didn’t offer up meaningless platitudes.
Then there was the other kind. The ones who came to show their face for formality’s sake. They had come to find out the juicy details and spread it faster than TMZ.
Most people have good intentions but sometimes lack common sense and empathy to understand how their words will hurt a grieving person. Only if they walked in those heavy shoes would they be able to fathom the endless torment of a grieving heart.
My parents were still in dizzying shock, trying to process what I had just told them when they were subjected to the insensitivity of callous relatives. Worse, I was not there to shield them away from this hailstorm.
It’s not about you.
There were relatives who still managed to make it all about themselves. The chatty ones wouldn’t shut up. They talked about what was happening in their lives, their child’s upcoming wedding, their future plans, the time they were so sick and in the hospital.
A word of advice - It’s a good idea not to launch into your own ‘me too’ story about your cat dying.
One relative wanted to know why she wasn’t on the guest list to a recent wedding. Another asked my parents which carpenter built the china cabinet, so they could build the same. This was just hours after my parents heard the news of their child’s death.
Seriously? Did you come to offer condolences or to get furniture ideas?
Respect the wishes of the family.
Grieving is a very personal experience. People grieve in different ways. Some find comfort in talking about their pain, others need privacy. If they want to be left alone, give them space. If they don’t want flowers, don’t send a huge bouquet.
Some want funerals to be done on a grand scale while others want a private service. Don’t question them or shove your opinion in. At the end of the day, it’s their deepest loss, not yours.
This is so not the time for advice.
It’s human nature, we want to fix a hurting person’s pain. “If only we can reduce their grief, they’ll be alright.” we assume.
But grief is a very necessary process. Feeling the full depth of our pain and being in mourning helps to process that loss.
Grief is the price we pay for love.
You may mean well but please don’t ask a grieving person to accept the will of God, to find meaning in the loss, to be thankful, positive or strong so that their loved one’s soul rests in peace.