Lesson number four –Non-bereaved people vs. grief.
Unless people have been through the same situation, they won’t understand how grief feels. They just don’t get it. Grief is complex and confusing, it’s not easy and there’s a lot of obstacles to overcome, which means that people who haven’t been through it don’t see beyond the surface. People are sympathetic and want to be there to support you, but their sympathy can feel empty because they can’t imagine the magnitude of the loss you’re feeling. It can be really frustrating.
When you experience the death of a loved one, you experience everything that goes along with it. From executing the will and arranging the funeral to solo reminiscing until you cry. I think an underestimated or misunderstood task within grief is the paperwork that goes along with death. Your bereavement becomes contaminated with bureaucracy.
In the UK, a relative of the deceased has to obtain a medical cause of death certificate which is signed by two medical professionals. They also give you a certificate so the funeral can take place. You’ve got to keep that to formally register the death, which has to be done within five days of the death (what if your loved one dies on Christmas Eve or the day before good Friday? You ain’t getting an appointment within five days!). And that’s just the first couple of days. My Mum died over two years ago and we’ve not yet sold her house, so we’re still going through bureaucratic proceedings. It’s one of those hidden gems of grief that people who haven’t experienced bereavement don’t really understand. It’s a fucking headache over and over again.
There’s only so many “I’m sorry to hear your (person) has passed” that one person can hear before they resent it every time those words are uttered.
“At least she’s out of her suffering” Why does anyone have to suffer in the first place?,
“You’ve still got (this person)” … But I haven’t got my Mum and that’s who I need to help me right now
“It will get easier in time.” Thanks mate, whilst we’re on the topic of traumatic parental loss …do tell me more about both of your living parents!
“Things happen for a reason” Oh yes thank you so much, my Mum died for a reason!
I know these things are said with the best intentions, but those best intentions can seem selfish in that the speaker wants to fix how you’re feeling so that they don’t feel shit. Their instinct might be to make it better, but they don’t know how because feelings are difficult. Their understanding of loss doesn’t match up with the magnitude of what you’re feeling. There’s a huge difference between sympathy and empathy. Oxford dictionary defines sympathy as feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. Pity. Misfortune. Whereas empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. I’ve lost three grandparents and one Mum, so I’ve had my fair share of sympathy. I’m going to be honest and I mean no disrespect, but I hate sympathy. Everything of my Mum, the guiding star, warming presence and accepting nature that she is has simply gone. Left behind her a Chanel Chance scented void. But why would they have empathy? They don’t know what that feels like. That feeling can’t be faked or imagined.
If I have a sad moment and need to cry about something, my lovely boyfriend will give me a cuddle and say something along the lines of “it’s okay to be sad”. I appreciate his love and patience, but I already know it’s okay to be sad and cry. Grief doesn’t need to be validated. My Mum died. I’m fucking sad about it.
I think what I’ve learnt from being a griever is to let whoever else may be grieving to do exactly that. Not to give them vague statements. Say something personal, show you’ve been listening and you care. Do not state how you think someone else is feeling, or attempt to know that feeling. Those are theirs and they are 100% valid, even if they do not line up with what you have or would feel in a similar situation. It’s okay to be honest and say you don’t know how it feels or that you’re not sure how to make it better. The griever doesn’t know how to make anything better either, so you’ll be two peas in a pod.