How Much Eye Contact Should A 3 Year Old Make What Not to Say and What to Say to Someone Who is Mourning

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What Not to Say and What to Say to Someone Who is Mourning

We need each other, especially in times of distress. And it is important never to forget that human interaction is the very essence of living a happy life. The positive result of that interaction is always based on respectful and supportive communication–saying the right things at the right time.

Some people seem to be especially blessed with the ability to be able to connect. Others have a habit of saying the wrong things at the wrong time. The result in terms of mourning is that the mourner is often hurt more, and tends to draw away from certain people at a time when social support is a crucial need.

Here are a number of comments that have been made that should have been kept under wraps. Then we’ll look at some of the more helpful responses.

1. “You’ll find someone else (or another good friend)” or “It can’t be that bad.” These comments are often made to young widows or widowers or to teens that have lost a friend. Sometimes it is prefaced with, “You’re still young ….” They hurt deeply.

2. “At least you have other children.” The assumption that it is a consolation to have other children disregards that this particular child is gone and was loved dearly.

3. “You’ll be okay” or “I understand what you are going through.” Every person’s grief

is one-of-a- kind because every relationship with a loved one is unique. No one understands.

4. “He’s in a better place” or “It’s God’s will.” We don’t understand the deep beliefs that a particular person may have. The deceased is not here is the point, and what kind of a God would will such a thing, may be the thoughts of many mourners.

5. “You’ll get over it” or “Its been a long time, don’t you think you should be over it?” Nobody gets over it; they integrate and live with it in their daily lives.

6. “Time heals all wounds” or “Just put it out of your mind.” As a friend who lost her 17 year-old son said, “Time doesn’t heal all wounds unless you work between the minutes.” For the caregiver, it means allowing the mourner much repetition and retelling the story. And, no one forgets.

7. “It could have been worse, so don’t feel so bad” or “Don’t talk about it.” This minimizes one’s grief and is a veiled way of saying get over it. It is critical that the

mourner be encouraged to talk about it and express feelings.

8. “Its been over a year now. Don’t you think you should let this go?” or “You can’t bring him back.” There are no time limits on grief and it is very normal for it to revisit. It could revisit periodically for the rest of one’s life. Stating the obvious is demeaning to the mourner.

All of the above comments have two things in common. The first is a lack of awareness of what constitutes normal grief. The second is those who use these remarks have difficulty being around someone in pain. Grief is a lonely feeling to begin with–no matter how many people are around you–and all these comments do is reinforce the loneliness for the mourner.

Here are some alternative considerations with a more need fulfilling view.

1. “I wish there was something I could say to ease your pain.”

2. “I am so sorry.” (Some people do not like this after hearing it so often.)

3. “Do you feel like talking now or maybe at some other time?”

4. “It’s okay to cry whenever you feel like it. Please don’t hold it back.”

5. “How is your day going?”

6. “What kind of a day are you having?” (If the mourner gives the usual answer of

okay, make good eye contact and say, “How is it really going?”) You will be

surprised at the answer you receive.

7. “Would you like me to stay or would you rather have time by yourself?”

8. Sometimes, a hug, with nothing said may be all that is needed at that particular time.

Remember over 90% of a message that is communicated is nonverbal. That is, your facial expression, eye contact and other body movements deliver the major part of the message. Your intent to give comfort, not to fix what you can’t fix, will come through your nonverbal communication. Always address the mourner with respect, and the belief that the person is in charge of his/her mourning, and will teach you how he/she feels. Be a student.

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