Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday's Therapy – People Say a Lot of Dumb Stuff

Thursday's Therapy

People Say a Lot of Dumb Stuff


A TCF Speech – 8 Things I’ve Learned About the Grief of a Grieving Parent

Part Two of Eight

Jayne Raines Newton of The Atlanta Compassionate Friends mailed me this wonderfully therapeutic speech last week, and I'd like to pass it along to you!


Two: Some of the things I have learned have turned up as chapter headings in some of my books. Maybe the one chapter heading that has spoken to more readers is the one that says. "People Are Going to Say a Lot of Dumb Stuff."

Somehow we expect people to have thought about the words that come out of their mouths as they gather around and try to help.

Actually, very few of us ever really examine the words we say.

We just sort of just open mouth, and spit out some cliché that we once heard, and assume that it will work.

We also start from the mistaken assumption that our job when we speak to a grieving person is

To fix things.
To solve their problem.
To say some magic set of words that will help them "snap out of it."
It works on television – why won't it work in the funeral home?

If you want to see a real "spitting contest," just start any group of Compassionate Friends to sharing some of the idiotic things people might have said to them to try and make them feel better…

The stupidity ranges all the way from

"God must have needed another angel in heaven."


"You're still young – so you can have other children."

To the absolutely abominable –

"I know exactly how you feel because my pet died."

Probably the only thing that will keep you from punching out a long-time friend who says one of those dumb things is to make yourself hear what they mean instead of what they say.

People just say dumb stuff. But they mean well. You gotta cut them some slack even though you're the one who is in need.

For what it's worth: You are probably now permanently cured from saying dumb stuff when you go to try and comfort a bereaved friend. For starters: If they know what you've been through, they are going to get all kinds of helpful, unspoken messages the minute you walk in the door.

You also now know... that hugs say things better than words. I find that looks and hugs are far more eloquent than any words I might put together.

You have before you if you choose to accept it, a tremendous opportunity to be a lifetime servant of grieving people.

You now hold the hard-won credentials of a person who can truly help... because you know all the dumb stuff not to say.

A little while back, I got word that the grown daughter of one of my closest friends had been raped. She was a single parent. A guy with a crowbar pried open the back door in the middle of the night, came in and raped her... with her children in the next room. When I got the news, I went straight to my car... straight to my friend's house, knocked on the front door.

My friend and his wife opened the door and I said,

"I'm here to hurt with you."

We hugged and cried together in their front hall.

There were no words to say.

I knew better than to come with encouragement.

I wasn't there to try and cheer them up.

Or distract them from the pain.

I was there to hurt with them.


Thank you again to Charlie Walton, and to Jayne Raines Newton who shared this speech with me, both of The Atlanta Compassionate Friends.

Stay tuned next week for Point Three of Charlie's speech!


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