Is there anything more awkward than grief? I doubt it. It was uncomfortable for me, and for the people trying to offer their love and support. I’ve heard all sorts of well-intentioned messages since Mark died. I know you’re all worried now that maybe I’m going to mention something you said. Rest assured, if you’re worried, that probably means you’re in the clear. And if you did say something on my list, be confident I don’t really remember who said what anyway. These examples are not to shame anyone, but to provide insight into what helped and what didn’t. The remarks that fell short inspired a “Bless their hearts” response in my mind. I know they tried. I know they meant well. Pre-grief Jodi is guilty of many grief support don’ts as well.
- Do not under any circumstances talk about remarriage.
The very first week, I found myself on the phone with our insurance company to cancel a policy no longer needed. I had to accomplish something and this was low-hanging fruit. I explained the situation to the office manager. Her response? Advice on opening my heart to my next marriage. Mmmmkay? Just cancel the policy, please. It’s been one week, lady. Ease up. It wasn’t Jake, but her comments and timing were hideous.
- Now is not the time to share your grief story. That time will come, but not right off the bat.
It’s not that I don’t care about your loss, I do! But give me a minute to soak in our loss. I need a little time to be selfish about it. There’s a time and place for talking about your grief with new grievers. The first weeks, other people’s grief stories were not comforting. Be a comforter, not a one-upper. In time, the shared experiences feel more like support and provide a sense of community. Initially, not so much.
- If you don’t know the person(s) grieving, please do not mail a letter to their home trying to convert them to your religion.
I know, right?! I didn’t know whether to file a restraining order or laugh. Death brings out helpers and also predators. Don’t be a predator. There’s a better way to evangelize, people. Seriously.
- If you’re a realtor, financial planner, monument and headstone salesperson, etc. – GO AWAY!
I know this isn’t very extra grace of me, but this is just so terrible. If and when I need you, I’ll call you. Go away. (See “Don’t be a predator.”)
- “Everything happens for a reason”
Please, just don’t.
- Don’t tell young children they are in charge of anything
My son is not the man of the house now. He is eight. He isn’t the man of anything. He’s a little boy who just lost his Daddy. The last thing he needs is pressure to take care of adult things. And the last thing I need is for my child to think he’s the boss of me. Bless your heart, but no.
- Disposable pans only
You are so sweet if you brought food, but I hope you didn’t bring it in your favorite pan because you’ll probably never get that back. Disposable pans are the way to go. You don’t have to worry about your favorite dishes and neither do I. Win-win.
- Casseroles without instructions
Even when I’m not grieving, I’m not a great cook. I need instructions. Specific instructions, like thaw this sucker out before you try to cook it. And then, please tell me how to cook it! What temp? How long? This is what drove me to restaurants for three months. It was too hard. Also, the recipe is a nice touch. I’d like to try to make those delicious recipes again one day. You guys are amazing chefs!
- Please visit or call, but don’t stay too long
Visitors and phone calls were surprisingly treasured. Before, I always assumed visiting the grieving was intrusive. I avoided knocking on the door or calling because I didn’t want to bother the grieving family. I was surprised to appreciate those who stopped by – even the day after his death. But here’s the thing. I was so tired, overwhelmed, and so beside myself that any visit longer than 20 minutes would’ve been way too long. Keep it beautiful, and keep it brief.
If you’ve experienced loss, chances are you have your own stories. I’d love to hear them. (But let’s show extra grace and be nice about it). Leave me a comment sharing your big grief support don’ts. We might as well laugh about it, right? Because we know most often people are just doing their best, and that’s really all any of us can do.
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis