How not to be a Miserable Comforter
HOW TO BE AND NOT TO BE AROUND PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING THROUGH TRIALS
BY RICA PERALEJO
Communication has never been this fast and far-reaching, and maybe it isn’t always always beneficial for those who are suffering or going through grave pain.
One of the good things that happened to me when I lost my baby was gain a good grasp of how not to be a miserable comforter.
I actually got this term from a book I read soon after the horrible news, one which directly tells me “Your suffering ain’t anywhere like this, girl,” and the book of course was that of Job.
I actually collected some points so close to home as I read his story, which I shall write and share another time. For now let’s talk about the do’s and don’ts of comforting when someone had just died.
Honestly, my experience taught me so much about the “art” of giving our condolences, as well as made me realize how I got it wrong a couple of times myself. And since death and suffering are constants in life, I decided to write a few things that might help you alleviate and not aggravate tremendous grief.
DON’T MESSAGE HASTILY. Think about what you want to say and choose your words carefully. People who are mourning are extra sensitive and this is a rule of thumb. For every DO and every DON’T on today’s list, it should be under the guidance of this main principle of thinking before you speak.
DON’T DIAGNOSE WHAT HAPPENED. This is why Job called his friends miserable comforters, because they all diagnosed that his suffering was punishment. However it was clear in the story that he really didn’t do anything to merit the afflictions God allowed on his life.
In the same way, I also got a couple of comments saying, “You probably traveled so much that’s why you lost the baby” or “You announced the pregnancy that’s why negative forces canceled the good news.”
Unfair because those are not true, and it is gravely disrespectful to presume authority on a matter only God can ever truly understand.
DON’T PRESCRIBE WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT. Encouraging and sharing verses of hope is different from saying, “You’ll be fine” or “It’s going to be alright in the end.” Especially when the grieving person can’t see the sun shining just about yet, it is best to stay with him/her in the grieving zone and not say things that go ahead of his/her process.
DON’T SAY YOU “KNOW HOW IT FEELS” UNLESS YOU REALLY DO. Some people messaged me saying, “I know how it feels” but have never been pregnant. Perhaps a better thing to say is, “I don’t know exactly how this feels but I can imagine it hurts. And I wish I can just give you a big hug right now.”
Now let’s go full blast on the DO’s and BE’s.
DO WEEP. People who cried with/for me in person or who messaged me only saying they shed tears when they heard about the news actually helped a lot.
DO PRAY. Of all, this one made me feel the lightest, as I am not carrying the burden all by myself. The Word of God is powerful, it is living and alive, so speaking them in behalf of a grieving person really makes a difference.
BE AVAILABLE & SENSITIVE. Grieving people sometimes look for company, and other times they look for solace. Be discerning and offer what they really need at the moment, and not what you want to give. (Ex. If they don’t feel like crying, don’t say “It’s okay to cry.” Just be there and wait and be available if ever they do. But don’t force it.)
BE SIMPLE. No need for long and flowery messages but a simple “Our condolences,” will do. If you are speechless then just say “I don’t know what to say,” and follow with “I am sorry for your loss.”
So far, these are all I can think of but part of why I wanted to share this is because we all live in the digital age. Communication has never been this fast and far-reaching, and maybe it isn’t always always beneficial for those who are suffering or going through grave pain.
Maybe what we can do then as netizens is to be more mindful, respectful and reflexive. Able to show care and concern, without overstepping borders — no matter how invisible they might get in this day and age.
That said I also want to say that I am grateful for all the well meaning messages I got from everyone at that time. Thankfully, the grace of God always made me see the thought behind every message I’ve received and I am definitely blessed that people spared a few seconds of their life just to let me know they care. 🙂