I know how you feel… Let’s erase those words from our go to answers for someone dealing with grief. While it’s our natural answer to show compassion, most of the time, we really don’t know how someone feels. Don’t tell your own story in a way that you try to justify why you know how someone feels. Each of us were uniquely made which means we all experience different emotions and feelings. Along with this, each loss is different because of a 1001 circumstances. And, at the end of the day, we all handle loss differently. Losing a sibling vs. losing a parent, vs. losing a grandparent all “feel” different and those feelings change based on age, circumstance, relationship, personality, etc.
A miscarriage is very different from delivering a stillborn baby. Both experiences are painful but they are very, very different. l would assume losing a sibling when you are in your twenties is different from losing one when you are in your seventies. Both losses are painful yet different.
Instead of saying “I know how you feel”, maybe must say, “I’m sorry for your loss” or share a specific reason why you feel the deceased was a great person. Grieving people love to hear positive comments and qualities about their loved one. Everyone wants their time here on Earth to matter. When my dad died, someone told me that dad was his supervisor over 20 years ago and he really respected him. That’s good stuff. Or, “Uncle Jerry was my favorite uncle”. Again, great stuff. In fact, I was able to share that last statement with my dad before he died and he gave me a “thumbs up” which I could then relay to his niece. I also had someone tell me how proud my dad was of me and he always talked about me when he got the oil changed in his car. Those are priceless comments that I treasure.
Remember, we all want our time on Earth to matter. No one wants to be remembered as the horrible uncle, bad supervisor, crappy friend, etc. While no one is perfect, if you have positive memories to share with someone, share them. Those words or memories can bring much comfort. As perfectly imperfect as our loved one was, we all want to remember the good qualities about him/her.
Every year, on the anniversary of my sister’s death, I share a picture of her on Facebook. When people post nice sentiments or memories about her, it really helps me through the rough day and lets me know that people have not forgotten her. I cherish each comment that people make about my sister. Becky died before Facebook so unfortunately we were not blessed with the ability to go back through her news feed for memories. I have a friend who also lost her sister who had a Facebook account. I envy this friend for being able to go back and read, share, and comment on various memories. I do have a few handwritten cards from her and I truly treasure them.
I have a friend who lost her father before Becky died and share some profound wisdom with me that now I share with people when they lose a loved one: “It will never get better but it will get easier”. Time definitely works wonders. With time, pain eases and you no longer cry each day. You feel guilty when you have “good days” but then eventually, you adjust to your new life and things get easier even though the hurt will always be there.
The next time, you feel awkward and want to say “I know how you feel”, stop yourself and think of something nice to say if you personally knew the deceased person or just simply say “I’m so sorry for your loss and I will be praying for you”. Help people remember the good and let them know you are praying for them. That’s really all you have to say.