How to deal with people who weren’t there for you

Someone recently asked how to respond to or deal with people who weren’t there for you after your bereavement.

Firstly, it sucks when you’re feeling unsupported from those who should be there for you at such a difficult time.

Something to remember is that people might avoid situations like ours because they are afraid. They’re afraid that they might say the wrong thing, cause negative emotions, or maybe it’s a fear of having to confront their own worries and doubts about death. I think that a lot of people who haven’t experienced bereavement don’t realise that grief is a continuous experience. Perhaps it seems that because you have good days, you must be improving. But grief ebbs and flows all day, everyday.

None of that will change the way that you feel about those people at the moment, and I completely understand that. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to have those feelings about those people, let alone bring it up with them. You absolutely deserve a form of release for those feelings, we all know how bottling things up isn’t a good idea.

Something I’ve benefited from during my grief journey is writing my feelings down (surprise surprise…she runs a blog). Letters are great. Detailed, honest, angry, sincere letters that allow you to express and articulate your feelings about the situation you’re facing with the person/people who aren’t being as supportive as they could or should be. You don’t have to send it or even keep it afterwards. I’ve written things down on a piece of paper to make them a valid, tangible object just to screw it up and throw it away.

Whatever it is that you are feeling and want to convey, a letter is a great way of getting those feelings out for yourself and not letting them brood around inside anymore. Allowing those feelings to exist somewhere other than your head and your heart can be really cathartic.

It’s your choice whether you send them to the intended recipient or not, but I think getting those feelings out in a controlled way and in a safe environment will help you to see what you’re feeling towards who, and why you’re feeling it. It might help you realise if and what to say to this person/people who have let you down.

Sending the letters might sever the ties you have with that person, it could do more harm than good, but if you feel really strongly that you need to tell this person, and you feel you can present it in a calm and fair way, then do it. Their reaction and response will soon tell you if they’re a person worth having around.

You could sever the ties yourself and remove that person from your life. It’s difficult and conflicting to do when the person you’re distancing yourself from has been active and supportive in other areas of your life, and possibly for a significant amount of time, however it can be the right thing to do for some people. If the idea of speaking with or seeing them doesn’t come with a positive feeling then it’s going to be good for you, in the long run, to remove them.

You could, of course, confront the person or people who have been unsupportive. Personally I feel as though I would want to clarify what it was that they did (or rather didn’t!) do for me during a hard time in my life, so that I’m speaking to them with reason rather than pure emotion.

Speaking honestly and fairly to these people, expressing your feelings in a calm and controlled way, and removing negative or unsupportive relationships will never make you a bad person. Keep yourself at the centre of everything you do.

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