By Dr. GLORIA HORSLEY
Many readers expressed their anguish and frustration at not knowing how to offer even some small comfort and it sparked a discussion among us about what to say to someone who is grieving.
This post is by family therapist and bereavement specialist Dr Gloria Horsley whose own son died aged 17.
Recently, I was scheduled to be a guest on an early morning radio broadcast from Bakersfield, California.
I am a family therapist, bereaved parent and president of Open To Hope, the bereavement organisation with a mission of “Helping People Find Hope After Loss”.
Grief and recovery are topics the media avoids and I am happy when a radio program is willing to talk about the subject.
Theresa, the woman who called me to book the show, suggested the topic: “What to say and what not to say to people who have had a loss.”
My spot is prerecorded and three minutes long. Not much time to discuss such an important subject.
I woke up early, went downstairs, sat at my desk and jotted down some thoughts on what seems like a lifetime away.
I revisited my 17 year-old son’s death, and pondered what people said or did that was helpful and not so helpful.
I recalled silly statements like, “You now have an angel in Heaven” or blaming statements like, “Were they wearing safety belts?” or “Had they been drinking?” Yes, to the safety belts and no to the drinking.
One lady came to the wake and informed me with a twinkle in her eye that, “Scott appeared to me last night and said he was fine”. I thought the statement was strange as I was sure that if he appeared to anyone it would be me.
The phone rang at 6:20 a.m. I snapped up the receiver so I wouldn’t wake the rest of the family. It was Jeff from News Talk Radio — nice voice and nice man.
We exchanged pleasantries. “Sorry,” says Jeff. “Wish we had more time; this is an important topic”. Click…we start to record.
Jeff starts, “Dr. Horsley isn’t it true that people grieve differently?” I say, “Yes, that is true but there is also some commonality in that grieving comes in waves and is very stressful.”