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When Comfort Isn’t Comforting

I want to speak of loss and grief, and I know this is somewhat of a departure for me, but it’s weighing heavily on me, and so I shall write.

We’ve all experienced times of loss and grief so big that you felt that you would die of it.  If you haven’t, you are either too young to be reading this or you’re living a charmed life.  We all are also familiar with the helpless and awkward moments of talking to those who are in the thick of a tragedy.  I know that I never know what to say in these situations, and I have to assume that I’m not alone in that, since people often say ridiculous things.  Some of the most common platitudes follow and while I know they’re offered with the best of intentions, I want to bring to light another perspective.  I do not always view things through the rosiest of glasses and these optimistic, supposedly soothing, sentiments often just bring a surge of rage when I’m already emotionally fragile.

Sentiment #1 – It’s darkest before the dawn.

What nonsense.  It’s a nice thought when you’re at your lowest, but as we all know, sometimes when things are bad and it seems that they can’t get any worse, they get worse.  And even if it doesn’t get any worse, it’s a cheap comfort to think the sun will shine tomorrow when you’re not even sure you can make it through the night.  When the pain has swallowed you whole, there is no dawn in sight.  You’re just trying to find your way in the dark.

Sentiment #2 – What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

Let’s face it, if you’re upright and even going through the motions, I suspect you already know that you’re stronger than you ever believed.  That’s probably why it didn’t kill you in the first place.  But it can be hurtful and insulting to suggest that your tragedy is going to benefit you in any way.  Yes, you are strong, you are surviving grief and that is no small feat.  You will come out on the other side with more life experience, and maybe you’ll be stronger.  However, I suspect every one of us would trade that strength to undo what was done in a heartbeat.  This doesn’t comfort.  We don’t want to be stronger.  We want our lives back to normal.

Sentiment #3 – Time heals all wounds.

Please excuse me for a moment, but I have strong feelings about this.  What complete and utter horseshit this is.  Time does not have healing properties.  There are wounds that will never heal and it’s absurd and delusional to suggest otherwise.  It belittles your loss and makes light of your pain.  Time absolutely will not heal your wounds.  In time, you will grow and you will learn to live with it.  But you will never be healed.  It will get easier, in time, but it will never be healed. You will be changed forever, and you’ll learn to deal with that, but you’re going to carry this with you forever.

My last opinion on the subject is not a platitude, but it regards hugging.  People want to hug you when you’re in pain.  I appreciate the healing power that human contact has for some people, but I respectfully request that we all remember that it’s not for everyone.  I don’t generally want people to touch me at any time, I’m not a human contact kind of person.  When I’m emotionally crushed and just barely hanging on, I’m like a house of cards and your hug is a windstorm.  Please don’t indiscriminately hug.

I know I can come across as harsh sometimes.  I cannot stress enough that I completely understand that all of these things come from a place of love and concern.  I just think it’s important to understand how they can be perceived.  It’s hard to shrug things off when you’re completely broken and the most innocent, well-meaning comments can turn hurtful and ugly in those moments.  Most of the time it’s best to just to say, “I’m so very sorry for you.  Please let me know if I can do anything.”

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Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , ,
  1. February 27, 2012 at 9:58 am

    yes. yes, yes, YES.

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