3 Things you should never tell a grieving person

BY: Kobina Ansah's Shrine
Give people space and time to mourn

It is a hard place to be in to lose a loved one. When people we have grown to live with and love depart to eternal glory, it has a heavy toll on us. No matter how old we are, we still feel the hurt of losing people we love. Old age doesn’t insulate us from pain.

The thing is, you never understand the pain of the bereaved until you are bereaved. When we sympathise with people, we have no idea of the gravity of their grief until we lose people really close to us. We never understand “condolence” until our hearts are broken by our deceased loved ones.

Until you lose a loved one, you will always underestimate the pain of losing one. You will assume people who mourn for long are just wasting their time. If you have never lost someone you dearly loved, you wonder what people gain if they hold on to their grief for so long.

When people lose their loved ones, give them time to get over it. Some may take days to do so. Others may even take years to. As different as we all are, we will have different responses to grief of which others must try to accommodate.

When people are pained by the loss of people they cherish, you must be careful how you comfort them lest you worsen their plight. You must avoid telling them that…

“God gives! God takes!”
A single mother just lost her only child through someone’s neglect and all you have to say is, God gives and takes? Someone just lost their wife in the labour ward and you have to remind them that God is a giver and taker? Really? What about the irresponsibility of those who caused the death?

In the moment of grief, people don’t need to be reminded that God took away their loved ones. It paints Him as a heartless creature. How could He take away both parents of a teen through a fatal accident? How could He heartlessly deny a baby their mother’s love?

It has almost become a cliché to remind grieving people that God gives and takes. This, however, sounds differently in the ears of the bereaved. They are pained by the fact that they are not going to see their loved ones again. We don’t need to make God the cause of their pain, especially when all evidence points to someone’s negligence.

The time of grief is not only a time of pain. It is also a time of anger. Grieving people want to blame others for their loss. Telling them God took away their loved ones makes Him look like an evil person who only denies people of their loved ones.

Sometimes, the best way to comfort people is to shut up. It is better to say nothing at all than to make people angrier in their times of sorrow.

“Mourning will not bring them back!”
No one mourns to bring back their loved ones. They do so to let out the pain that has welled up inside of them. People mourn because they have finally accepted that those they once communed with have now crossed to the other side of the world… never to meet again.

We need to be sensitive about what we say to people who are in a state of mourning. Sometimes, our supposed motivation only aggravates their pain. We will never get to understand such until it is our turn to mourn.

Never write off people’s grief. The closer the deceased was to them, the longer it may take for them to let them go. Some may hold on to their departed relations for so long a time. We must be able to accommodate them all the same.

“You are not the first to lose a loved one!”
As long as we are not part of Adam’s generation, we won’t be the first to die or to lose people we love. And as long as the pandemic can’t wipe away this entire generation, we won’t be the last to die. We must, thus, be careful how we comfort the pained.

People may not be the first to lose a loved one but this may be the first time they are losing someone they had kept in the depths of their heart. The dearer people are to us, the harder their loss will hit us.

The longer we have been with people, the longer their memories will stay with us when they depart.
Allow people to grieve. There is no standard for mourning. Some will delete all the pictures they had with the deceased to avoid going through episodes of pain when they see them. Others will avoid their company of friends just to help them mourn. You may always underestimate their grief until you lose your most cherished relations, too.

Give people space and time to mourn. Sympathise with them as much as you can. A vacuum has been created in their lives which may take forever to get filled. Take it easy on them. Be mindful of whatever you tell them. It may cause them more woes than the departure of their loved ones.
Whatever you say, first consider yourself as the hearer. It will save others more pain.

The writer is a playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications, an Accra-based writing company (www.scribecommltd.com). His play, Emergency Wedding, is on December 18, 2021 at National Theatre. Visit www.scribeproductions.com for more details.