Coping with other people's reactions

Discussion in 'Grief in Common Updates, Questions & Answers' started by bluebell, Aug 20, 2018.

  1. bluebell

    bluebell New Member

    Hi all, newbie here.

    I lost my father two weeks ago (gosh, I can't believe it's been that long already), so the loss is still pretty raw. His death was long, drawn-out, agonizing, and ugly, and he was very young - only in his 50s. My mother and I were his primary caregivers (aside from doctors and nurses) in the last two weeks of his life, so I was present for much of the dying process. It's clear to me that there's tons I have to work through yet.

    I'll be returning to work this week, and I'm really dreading dealing with the sympathy and the well-meaning-yet-misguided statements I'm sure to encounter. I've already been dealing with those and struggling to find good responses that are honest and yet not...awful. For starters, when people say, "How are you?" and you can't say "Fine," when you don't want to talk about it, because then they give you that LOOK where they want to say "Clearly you're not," but they don't want to, like, argue with you, so they just look at you pityingly instead and say it with their facial expressions. But you also can't say "I'm doing terribly, thanks," because they'll either think, "Well this person doesn't LOOK terrible, since they're not sobbing right now," or else you DO look awful so they don't want to continue the conversation and then neither of you feels like they can say anything.

    But more significantly, people have been repeatedly saying certain things since Dad's wake that I'm just at a loss to respond to. What do you say to, "I hope you know how lucky you are to have had a caring dad who didn't abuse you, like mine did!" "Uhh...yes, I was lucky?" "Are you saying I'm not sufficiently appreciating him?" "Thank you?"

    Or when they say things like, "Wow, you must be so sad!" "Uhh...yeah? Of course?"

    Or when they want to give you helpful little "tips" that worked for them that seem completely useless to me. There's only so long you can keep that plastic smile plastered on your face before it begins to crack.

    What have you said in such situations? I am so hoping I can find people to talk to on here, either just on message boards or through private messages, so feel free to reach out, especially if you're in a similar situation.
  2. Michele Wood

    Michele Wood Well-Known Member

    I have found most people do not know what to say, probably because they have never experienced it or it was years ago. In my mibd, it just takes too much mental energy to do anything orher than say thank you. However, if they are obnoxious about it, just say to him or her, " I know you are sorry for my loss. Thank you!" No one except people who have been through it understand and we can't expect them to be
    FoundaGoodThing2002 likes this.
  3. SPK

    SPK New Member

    It’s been two years since my husband died. I’m still in a fog. I am ball faced lying every time someone asks how I am. I say fine and change the subject. Most people don’t mean to say callous things but they’re at a total loss as to what else to say. It sucks.
  4. Michele Wood

    Michele Wood Well-Known Member

    We live in a society that doesn't deal with death well. People don't know what to say, so they either say stupid stuff or they avoid you.

    I have found that you almost have to teach people how to support us. Tell them what we need _ to be listened to and be allowed to talk about our loved one without feeling shamed - and some people will respond. Regarding the rest: ignore them.

    Because I suffered traumatic loss - unexpected, sudden and in my presence - I have to deal with trauma as well as grief
    I have no mental energy for those who do not help support my grief. I just do not talk to them and soon they are gone.
    greeneyedlady and Lisa Gaboury like this.
  5. Stacia

    Stacia Member

    I have found that one of the hardest things to deal with are some of the things people say to me after the loss of my daughter. It was two years ago and it still fresh as if it were last week it still hurts every day. A year ago people told me to move on. They can’t understand what a hurtful thing that is to say. Even the platitudes like “celebrate her life“ are very painful. This is really been a struggle because I have lost friendships over this. When one of my best friends told me it was time to MoveOn and I needed to celebrate her life and that I was too sad over my daughters death. When I responded and told her what a painful and horrible thing that was to say to me she got defensive and told me I was selfish. It’s true that grief we re-writes your address book. It really is. I really like MIchelle’s idea just to say “I know you are sorry for my loss. Thank you.”
    middlechild and (deleted member) like this.
  6. Stacia

    Stacia Member

    Oh and by the way. You are allowed to be selfish!
  7. SociallyImpaired

    SociallyImpaired New Member

    Ditto. What can you say...? Still trying to figure it out. I'm actually in the phase where no one at work mention it. Death was on 8-25-18, my mom. I don't know...some days I just want to shut the world out and just lay in bed and watch Hulu. NOT..must "face the crowd"
  8. Pnut315

    Pnut315 New Member

    I lost my mom on 9/25 and am still experiencing the awkward questions. When they ask how I'm doing I normally reply with "taking it day-by-day that's all I can do." or when they say how lucky I was to have such a wonderful woman as a mother I say yes I know and I was lucky they normally don't know what to say back and they'll smile politely and walk away and end the conversation. Unlike your dad my mom was quick and unexpectedbut what I have learned is we all grieve differently and no matter what nobody really knows what to say. I'm not going to tell you it gets any easier because I'm 4 weeks in and I still cry every day but I will tell you I don't cry every second and that doesn't mean I don't miss my mom. So the best advice I can give you is who cares what anyone thinks feel the way you need to feel cry if you need to cry say what you need to say nobody's expecting you to be perfect and if they are then they don't deserve a response from you anyway. sorry if that sounds mean and harsh but that's how I feel
    CBB13JJB likes this.
  9. LizCatMom

    LizCatMom Member

    I haven't had to deal with anything really bad yet as far as other people's responses...which makes me grateful for the perceptive people around me. Nobody's been tone deaf or tried handling me with kid gloves. Getting back to work and laughing with my co workers again has been incredibly healing. If somebody does or says something awkward, I assume they're doing the best they can and take it in the spirit it was given...like their heart's in the right place. When they ask how I'm doing in a conversational kind of way, I say I'm hanging in there. The responses I find hardest to deal with are "God has a plan..." as I'm not a very religious person. I try but I'm more spiritual. My fiance' was more religious. I usually just plaster a smile on my face and nod, remembering that people think they're helping and that's their truth. My counselor said, no one can tell you how to grieve, you have to be kind to yourself and do what helps you, and don't worry about what others think. I just try to remember that people are doing the best they can and that their hearts are in the right place.
  10. Sils

    Sils New Member

    I think the 1 phrase that really hurts and quite frankly enrages me is for someone to tell me at least I have 2 more children or for someone to tell my daughters at least you still have 1 sister. I think that is the stupidest and most hurtful thing anyone can possibly say to someone who has lost a child or sibling. Yes, I am so lucky I have other daughters but that doesn’t make the loss of a daughter hurt any less or the loss of a sister any less painful. For it to come from my family has been devastating.
    Brian'sMomma likes this.
  11. lflores413

    lflores413 Member

    This is one of the worse to endure because we lose friendships, and relationships. My childrens father and I split up because of his anger and it became physical. He was a loving man and i loved him. I decided to leave him because i felt it was better for my kids. I did not want them to grow up in a home with sadness and anger. I thought it would make him a better dad and give us time to grow individually. Things turned out for the worse. I didnt want to leave him but because of what he did to me, i couldnt not continue the relationship. When he past people would say things like, I am sure you are relieved. I would get so angry. How am i relieved when my children are broken hearted for their dad. he was not an abusive dad, he was a good dad. He was not the best but who is. He had a kind heart, because of his upbringing he dealt with alot of insecurities. He had a alot of mental issues and anger issues. It is hard when things are left the way they are and you lose that person. You are left with guilt and what if's. When you have children involved it is worse.
  12. Chelsey

    Chelsey New Member

    This is such a good way of explaining it. I've been trying to figure out how to direct my life with my dad passing away and having the shock of sudden death, the traumatic consequences of reflection and actually dealing with the emotions that comes with it and then also coaching people know how to handle me. I don't even know how to handle me.
  13. Cammiecat

    Cammiecat New Member

    In reply to questions about how I am doing, my stock answer is "I'm holding up". Because I am. Sometimes better than others. My partner of 30 years died on 7/17/18. And when people offer condolences because they don't know what else to say, I say "Thank you. It isn't fair". Because it's not.
  14. San

    San Member

    I read somewhere that when someone tells you some off handed remark like "well your mom was quite elderly anyway", I say, "yes, but tell that to my heart which is broken".
  15. paul tinker

    paul tinker Well-Known Member

    Many great reply's here. Michele Wood nice. Yes being so raw with reduced coping ability. Toleration is hard to come bye. Some times I do loose it. I will say I have had 65 years living in my body, how long have you been in here. Not a great response. In a way I was fortunate as I quit work to be a care taker. I really could not imagine going back to work. Brain and general faculties are off line and we still have to present in the world. I do believe we are members of a special club. We will understand each other quickly. Our conversations are not depressing at all. We tend to get to our in common feeling and feel heard and understood. How can " they know " , they can't. I have been on both sides of this as well. Also the awkward not knowing what to say person and so uncomfortable ! . I like to think that eventually I will get out of this churn of emotions. I have said I am like the weather and change every hour. I also like to think that eventually I can put this pain to use. Add layers of compassion and empathy for the suffering of others. And what are we told repeatedly, " it's a process ". Some times I will say I don't live grief it lives me. Probably a little to confrontational ? Best to you all. Paul
  16. AdriaStar

    AdriaStar Active Member

    I think we just have to remember nobody really knows what to say or how to deal with it. I worked in hospice when my son passed away so I had the added benefit of having a bereavement counselor and hospice trained co-workers at work. But I was very surprised at how many people avoided me when I returned to work. One of my co-workers actually would turn her head away or down every time she saw me! I felt bad that I made her uncomfortable so I simply avoided her to lessen her anxiety (we didn't work in the same department). Others simply came up, wrapped me in their arms and just held me.

    My biggest surprise was that most people just looked the other way, it was surprising because we all underwent so much grief training, that was our job to help people through the dying process.

    A few months after my son passed, one of my co-workers lost her baby at birth. She was very clear that she didn't want any one talking about it. She was so kind to me after my son died, I didn't know what to do. I wanted to respect her wishes but also wanted to return the kindness. Finally, I simply wrote her a short note thanking her for her kindness without mentioning her loss. She came up to me and gave me a big hug. She understood my intent.

    I also found that one of my co-workers had lost her son to suicide at age 17, we gave each other comfort without too many words.

    Ultimately it became too difficult for me to work in hospice while also grieving my son. I just felt surrounded by dying and death all the time. I was helping with grief workshops, developing training programs on suicide, disease, grieving, substance abuse, it was overwhelming. I left the job and that helped a lot.
    Ultimately what I do is try to live in grace, accept what others can give and understand what they can't. We all sustain loss, it's part of life so everyone has some loss.
  17. paul tinker

    paul tinker Well-Known Member

    I think the sympathetic hug or touching sounds incredibly comforting AdriaStar could you expand on the living in grace. How do you understand that important word and how do feel or evoke that being ? Nice response bye the way. I know a couple of 40 plus year nurses and a purpose filled life along with some real basic escapism are some ways. ( like just not heavy action movies or music)
  18. AdriaStar

    AdriaStar Active Member

    Hi Paul,
    I'm not a religious person in the sense of organized religion but I do feel we are all here for a reason. Even before my son's accident and subsequent death I was reading and practicing (trying to) radical acceptance, which is what I feel is similar to living in grace. Just a full acceptance of life, good and bad and that others' actions are created from their own reactions to life so to just accept people as they are, not take it personally. And just to be aware of others' good intentions and accept them and thank them for it. We all have troubles, losses as well as beauty and goodness in our lives. We are all just doing the best we can.
    I know it all sounds kinda hippy dippy but for me, just opening my heart and accepting life and death as it is instead of fighting it does create peace in my life. With all that said, I do cry everyday for my son and I definitely use music and reading to escape.
    Brian'sMomma likes this.
  19. paul tinker

    paul tinker Well-Known Member

    Thanks for you response. There is such a wide spectrum of thought on this subject. I took a friend to the Ocean for a few day's to get some room between a domestic situation. We were dinning at a seafood restaurant. Some issues with the food and sent a dish back. The conversation with the waitress was interesting. She was married with kids and a psych. degree. It was her attitude about not holding on to anger so impressed me. She said if a patron left with out paying then her attitude was they needed more than she did. I thought about that for a good long while. I concluded that if she could in fact approach life in that way. Then she received every penny of value from her degree. Having gone a few rounds now in the death and dying world I can say I very much have huge esteem for any one in this field. This includes medical , hospice, and funeral personnel. We the civilians will be so naive until it happens. When will proper gratitude be shown. Many times never. The pain of our sorrow my for some be that awakening. I know this sounds ," kinda hippy, dippy", but keep your son in your heart. If I could and I am on a universe basis giving you a big hug right now. Best to you in all of life. Paul
    Brian'sMomma and AdriaStar like this.
  20. Ralph Smith

    Ralph Smith Member