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David Baxter

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Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"
07 Sep 07
Steve Nguyen

Some years ago, a Florida woman delivered triplet baby boys. Sadly, all three babies died shortly after birth. What made the situation (in my opinion) even more tragic is that people didn?t know what to say to the mother because her entire world had turned upside down. Despite not being certain or sometimes even careful with their language or wording, people from the surrounding churches came by the carloads to offer their condolences.

  • ?It was God?s will.?
  • ?If it was meant to be, it?s meant to be.?
  • ?If God had wanted you to have the boys, then you?d have them.?
  • ?I know how you feel, when I was??
  • ?Oh, you?ll get over it.?
  • ?Everything is going to be okay.?
?and on and on it went.

Please know that I am not disrespecting church goers, their faith, or their character. What I am trying to do is to illustrate that sometimes, even with the best intentions, people say inappropriate things to those in mourning.

From a mental health?s perspective here?s why those statements are not suitable for comforting someone experiencing trauma and/or grief & loss.

?It was God?s will.?
How do you know that it?s really God?s will? And even if you did know, this statement does nothing to help comfort and console those in emotional pain or extreme grief.

?If it was meant to be, it?s meant to be.?
This statement shows a lack of concern for the person in that it carries the ?c?est la vie? (French: that?s life!) attitude.

?If God had wanted you to have the boys, then you?d have them.?
This statement sends the message that you don?t deserve these babies yet.

?I know how you feel, when I was??
This attempt to sympathize with the person in mourning seems like the ?right thing to say.? However, no two people are exactly alike and thus each person?s loss and trauma is unique to him/her. A more acceptable statement might be: ?I am so sorry for your loss. I?m here for you if you need me.?

?Oh, you?ll get over it.?
This statement is insensitive and minimizes the person?s level of pain.

?Everything is going to be okay.?
The reason why this statement is inappropriate is that it attempts to predict the future for this person. How do we know that she will be ok? The answer is we don?t. A more appropriate statement might be: ?I?m glad that I had the opportunity to be here with you during such a difficult time.?

Trauma experts have shared that it takes 1 to 6 weeks following a crisis (e.g. grief & loss) for strong emotional reactions to subside (A Practical Guide for Crisis Response in Our Schools) and that overall recovery from symptoms such as fear, anxiety, and nervousness can take up to three months (Diane Myers, Disaster Mental Health Consultant & Trainer).

Furthermore, coping with loss is a process that involves a series of tasks carried out over time. The passage of time is a necessary but not a sufficient component of successful grieving. People grieve differently and at different pace (A Practical Guide for Crisis Response in Our Schools).

Sometimes when we?re not sure what to say, the best thing might just be?to not say anything at all. A comforting pat on the back or a hand on the shoulder with an empathetic nod might be what?s needed at that moment.
 

Mari

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Re: Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

H! People certainly do say some dumb things and I was wondering recently why that would be. Does anyone know of any books on this topic? The brief checking I have done has not not been very successful. I have been looking under 'grief etiquette'. I do have pamphlets which I should check again but I am amazed and appalled at what some people say and do. I rarely speak in social situations so I can only offer quiet comfort which at least gives me the advantage of not saying the wrong thing. The one thing that bothers me is when people say that I should be happy because my son would not want me to be sad.

Trauma experts have shared that it takes 1 to 6 weeks following a crisis (e.g. grief & loss) for strong emotional reactions to subside (A Practical Guide for Crisis Response in Our Schools) and that overall recovery from symptoms such as fear, anxiety, and nervousness can take up to three months (Diane Myers, Disaster Mental Health Consultant & Trainer).

I think this time line is much too short. I loved my son for twenty years and for me, three months was not even the start of recovery from symptoms. :heart: Mari
 

David Baxter

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Re: Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

Trauma experts have shared that it takes 1 to 6 weeks following a crisis (e.g. grief & loss) for strong emotional reactions to subside (A Practical Guide for Crisis Response in Our Schools) and that overall recovery from symptoms such as fear, anxiety, and nervousness can take up to three months

I think this time line is much too short. I loved my son for twenty years and for me, three months was not even the start of recovery from symptoms. :heart: Mari

They're not saying that "recovery" from grief takes three months - just from "fear. anxiety, and nervousness", the "initial shock" phase if you like.

I don't believe there is any timeline for grief. It's a very individual thing.

And I don't believe that one ever "recovers" from grief and loss. I think we adapt to it in time but we don't "recover".
 
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Re: Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

People certainly do say some dumb things and I was wondering recently why that would be.
i think the biggest reason may be that people just have no idea what to say or what to do when faced with someone who's suffered such a huge loss. they simply don't know. empathy may be another problem - not everyone can try to picture what someone might be going through.

another factor i think is how well you know the person who's suffered the loss. i think i would be much better at offering comfort to someone i know well than to someone who's more an acquaintance.
 

David Baxter

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Re: Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

people just have no idea what to say or what to do when faced with someone who's suffered such a huge loss

I think that's very true.
 
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Re: Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

I've been living a complex grief for many, many years and after reading this article, i'm more convinced than ever that it was these "brush-it-off" responses that compounded my grief.

I have learnt to grieve alone which brings me some closure but i know and accept that i will always grieve my losses MY way and not as others would like me too whether they mean well or are just plain self-centered.

What helps me most in this and other areas are well moderated self help forums.

Blessings,

Jos?e
 
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Re: Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

having it brushed off is definitely something that complicates things, as it leaves you feeling like you shouldn't have the feelings you are having. i find it also makes one feel more alone, which for me makes it worse rather than better.
 

ladylore

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Re: Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

"It was God’s will"

And saying things like the above can throw someone's spirituality up in the air when that's all the person has left at times, is their faith.
 

ThatLady

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Re: Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

I don't believe that any time frame can be set for grieving. Grief, like any other emotion, is as individual as the persons who experience it. It's not something that can be delineated by days, weeks, or months. We're each different, and we grieve differently.

If one loses someone very close to them, that person cannot be expected to just "forget about" the loved one who has passed. We don't forget. We simply learn how to let the good memories take precedence over the sadness most of the time. That's certainly not to say we'll never feel sadness when we're remembering our loss. Of course, we will. There's nothing wrong with feeling sad, as long as we find a way to bring ourselves back into life by utilizing those wonderful good memories of happy times, and love shared. While we will never forget, we can learn to rejoice in having had someone so very special and much loved in our lives.
 
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Re: Grief, Loss, and Trauma: "It was God?s will", "I know how you feel"

having it brushed off is definitely something that complicates things, as it leaves you feeling like you shouldn't have the feelings you are having. i find it also makes one feel more alone, which for me makes it worse rather than better.

Indeed it can be lonely Ladybug.

I try to be my own best friend. Only i can give myself permission to feel what i feel but i don't have and don't expect permission to impose it on anyone who can't or doesn't want to understand it.

Between talking to myself and talking to others who discount (trash) my thoughts and feelings, i prefer to be alone. At least i can be genuine with myself.

Someone wrote: "We are born alone and we die alone". I embrace that, no dillusions!

Blessings,

Jos?e
 

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