Do Not Make Positive or Negative Grief Progress Assessments
Grief takes time. It is unhealthy and impossible to rush the grieving process. Several variables complicate grief, which can lengthen the grieving process. According to Therese Rando, Ph.D., noted grief therapist, the variables most likely to complicate grief include:
- The death of a child (especially if child was a minor)
- The relationship was conflicted
- The death was violent or sudden
- The death resulted from suicide
- The griever has had successive losses
Because each grief situation is unique, do not judge the griever’s progress or sadness. Remember that the griever is where they need to be on their path to healing.
Avoid Assessing Griever’s Progress
Assessment-type comments create feelings of guilt in grievers. Even the most well-intentioned comments sound like a grief progress report. Comments like these do not help the griever:
- “You really need get on with your life.”
- “It’s God’s will. It isn’t for us to question why.”
- “Your loved one is in a better place now, you should be happy for them.”
- “You should be grateful they died so suddenly, at least they didn’t suffer.”
- “You should be thankful you had so much time before they passed.”
- “You are so brave.”
- “I know exactly how you feel.”
- “I’m glad you’ve been able to put this behind you.”
- “You are taking this so well.”
Instead of comforting the griever, the assessor actually compounds grief. The griever “hears” they are not doing it right. The griever “hears” they are not entitled to negative feelings. The griever “hears” they are taking too long to grieve according to the assessor’s yardstick. Many grievers resent the insensitivity of such comments.
Remind Griever They Are Not Obligated To Explain Their Sadness
People want the griever to “get over it” and “hurry up and heal!” Remind grievers to refrain from falling into the apologetic trap. If the griever is not ready to socialize or engage in former activities, that is OK. If others inquire “Why?” a good, neutral response is “I’m just going through the process.” Remind the griever that attempting to justify their sadness will leave them feeling frustrated and exhausted. Trying to explain grief to someone who has not experienced it is like trying to describe color to a blind person.
Gently remind the griever: “You are where you need to be emotionally.”