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Old 12-03-2017, 06:28 PM
13,006 posts, read 12,434,284 times
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I was a bit taken aback by this. I think "They're in a better place" or "Everything happens for a reason" is the worst thing to say to someone. But the article in this link says it's "I know how you feel."


Now, I have never actually said that to someone, because I think it's a bit presumptuous (but I'd cut someone who wasn't that articulate a ton of slack in that regard), but I have said things like "I get it" or "I understand." Today, my ex-roommate was struggling to describe to me how it was both painful and a relief that her longtime service dog had passed away before she moved into her first home. I said "Yeah, I get it. It's like a sitcom that returns for a new season and there's a major cast change and a whole new set and it all takes some getting used to." She just started laughing and told me that was exactly the situation.

I also had lost my own dog just a few months before she lost hers - we were both devastated. We also both got new dogs around the same time. So yeah, I did know how she felt.

And honestly, when I lost my best friend and her mother, I really would have been relieved to hear someone say "I know how you feel" because I needed a road map so badly then. Maybe it would have kept me from going off the rails like I did.

I dunno. I think if you've had a loss that's comparable to what that person is going through, saying "I know how you feel" isn't necessarily the worst thing. Grief is very isolating, and when you encounter someone who can identify with your particular loss, that's kind of a comfort, especially if they've managed to deal with their grief effectively.

I mean, my dog died, and my friend lost her son around that time. I did not tell her "I know how you feel" - but I think she would have felt a great deal of comfort to talk to someone who had also lost a child in a similar manner. In that case, someone saying "I know how you feel" would have likely been very helpful.

I dunno - curious as to what other people think.
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Old 12-03-2017, 08:47 PM
Status: "I can learn to admire w/o having to aquire." (set 4 days ago)
Location: Where the last of the "Big 3" has retired. Spurs country.
3,022 posts, read 3,609,058 times
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I have been trained to say "I am here WITH you", and to let the grieving person speak without interrupting and without input into my own experiences.
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:00 PM
Location: Erie, PA
2,265 posts, read 924,043 times
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I avoid "I know how you feel" because I really DON'T know how they feel.

I've lost aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, etc. I've talked with grieving individuals who have lost these relatives as well but avoid the "know how you feel" because every relationship is unique and I think that people tend to resent it when you make a statement that comes across as assuming that you know what is going on with them. It also kind of closes off the conversation since it is more of a statement than a way to initiate a talk with that person who may need it.

I agree with Lodestar 77. " I am here with you" is a good thing to say to someone who is grieving. If they feel like talking, then this gives them room to open up. If they don't feel like talking yet then this also lets them know that the door is open.

I too also hate "S/he's in a better place" and "Everything happens for a reason". The other one that's really irritating to me is "How does it feel?" Oh wow, are they kidding me? Someone I loved just died and you are asking me how it FEELS?

I guess that the best approach to handle someone who is grieving is to think about how you would react/feel if it were said to you if YOU were the grieving party. If the answer is anything other than "positively or neutral", then you need to re-think it and find another way to say it.
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:01 PM
Location: planet earth
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"I know how you feel" is inaccurate and impossible - no one can ever know how anyone else feels.

I think saying "They're in a better place" is much safer - this world sucks, so wherever they are, it would have to better better than here. And if you really care about them, that would be a comfort. If your grief is more about you and "missing them," then it would not be a comfort.
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Old 12-03-2017, 09:21 PM
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
16,838 posts, read 51,286,023 times
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The article is pretty accurate, IMO. I'll paraphrase it more plainly:

When someone is telling you about their loss, and in the midst of grief, it is unconscionably self-centered and rude to use phrases like I know, I completely understand, I went through what you are and I...

We have all met people who think the world revolves around them. It doesn't, and those in grief don't need to be around such people. The article appears to be gently aimed at those people. A misstep by someone of obvious good intention and gentle demeanor is likely to be treated as a minor gaff in comparison.

There is a root understanding of this type of dynamics that comes from an understanding of Rosenberg's "Non-violent Communication" (NVC). There are you-tube videos on the subject and there are books. One of the core understandings in NVC is that we DON"T have the same experiences as others. We can empathize, which is acknowledging the facts of a situation and the emotions, but we do not OWN those emotions in any way. If you feel obligated to feel sad because someone else is sad, that is not a first-hand experience. People tend to think that sympathy is a positive emotion, but sympathy implies that you are in a power-over stance, where you are whole and the other person is not. Some of this comes from an internal message that it is not OK for someone to feel sadness or grief, and there is an attempt to share the burden by taking some of it on ourselves.

Grief and sadness are acceptable emotions. People experiencing them need to be acknowledged, the validity of their emotion needs to be understood, and they don't need their personal experience being dragged through the filters and incomplete understanding of someone else, especially the mind of a narcissist. Recognition for the grieving is often as simple as repeating back main points that they communicate and asking if that is correct. Having empathy involves understanding the gravity and import of their situation, but not feeling obligated to mirror their emotional responses, and instead honoring their individuality and strengths.

It can take a while to wrap your brain around the idea that sympathy is not always good. It may help if you remember someone who is always crying "poor me" while looking for sympathy. That is a hook to drag a bystander into their web of emotions that somehow they control.
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Old 12-03-2017, 10:26 PM
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I have had just about all those things said to me.

Although "he's in a better place" may be true, depending on one's beliefs, it is seldom a welcomed response early on in one's grief. Early in my grief I wanted to say, "but he wanted to be with me, and I wanted him to be with me, so that's where he should be. The best place for us to be is together; if we are apart, it's not a better place." With time, I was able to find my own feeling about that, but it was NOT a comfort in the beginning. Same with "everything happens for a reason." This is a dangerous thing to say, as not everyone believes it. Some people believe that God is there to help us deal with the random things that happen in life. I don't believe that God purposefully makes people suffer. So don't question a grieving person's faith system that way - they are being challenged enough by just staying standing.

I did have a few people say "I know just how you feel." Really? Sometimes my mind was so confused with feelings that I didn't know how I was feeling. How could someone possibly know the complexities of my relationship with my husband and what his loss means to me? I had someone say once "I know how you feel; my grandma died last year." I'm sorry, but as much as we may love our grandmothers, the loss is in no way commensurate with the loss of a spouse. I don't think it is as bad to say "I know how hard this is; I also lost my spouse." That conveys some understanding without presuming to know just how someone feels.

I appreciated "I'm sorry", "I know you are suffering; I'm praying for you" "I'm here for you" (if the person actually was) and especially "I will miss him; he was such a great guy." I even appreciated it when someone didn't make any real statement about my loss but just said "I'm glad you are here today; I'll sit with you if you would like some company."

I think many inappropriate statements come from the need of the sympathizer to "make you feel better." The truth is that we can't say anything that will take away the pain, so the best we can do is support the griever as best we can with the process of grieving.

I admit that there was a time, several months in, when I started covering up my grief when I was in public because I didn't want to feel like I was always asking for sympathy. The truth is that I was in great pain for much longer than I felt people would accept it, so rather than appear needy, I just tried to appear neutral. I couldn't put on a "happy" face, but I could just look and act "normal". It turns out that those that were actually close to me weren't fooled, but I didn't know it at the time.
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Old 12-03-2017, 11:19 PM
Location: SWFL
21,429 posts, read 18,139,040 times
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When my husband first died, I was the one telling people he was in a better place because I felt he was. We went through 7 years of him dying and the last 3 were the most miserable years for him. For me too, having to watch the man I love literally starve to death before my eyes. Was he in a better place? D_amned right he was. So that phrase didn't bother me even though they had no clue as to how right they were.

"Anything I can do for you." Baloney. They all did exactly nada. No calls, no visits, no bringing a sandwich. NADA.

Bitter? You bet. Fouled up my life after that? You bet. 6 years later am I okay? I think so.


I actually avoided people who had just lost a loved one. It scared me. I had lost my grandparents when I was 15 and 19 but at 15 my mother would not let me go to Bampa 's wake or funeral. Why? IDK. So he kind of just disappeared out of my life. At 19 I went to Nana's funeral to stand beside my mother to support her. So death hadn't actually "touched" me yet.

Then at 41 Mom died and I was devastated. NOW I knew what others felt. I never again did not say "I'm sorry" to someone. Then Daddy died and my rock was gone. I actually "counciled " a guy at work whose Dad had unexpectedly died on a Super Bowl Sunday. One day after the shock had worn off a little, I told him "Paul, someday you will wake up and that burning pain will be gone and you won't even remember it. You will know you went through it but you will not remember the actual pain. Kind of like childbirth." A little over a year later he came up to me and told me that day was the day and he hugged and thanked me!

I believe a simple "I am sorry" is the best choice of words to a newly bereaved.
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Old 12-04-2017, 05:18 AM
Location: Middle of the ocean
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I lost my first husband, but I would never say to another widow "I know how you feel", because it is just not true. Reading on the widow boards taught me that very fast, the differences in people and how they grieve.
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Old 12-04-2017, 07:00 AM
Location: South Carolina
13,103 posts, read 17,634,355 times
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I will go with I'm so sorry and leave it at that and maybe if I know they are having a really hard time a card and a gift card inside just to get something that they really need or just to make them feel a lil better .
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Old 12-04-2017, 07:16 AM
Location: Sneads Ferry NC/Randolph NJ/Cape Coral FL
12,925 posts, read 24,048,548 times
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I lost my husband this past March and I am sick of people telling me, "you are one of the strongest people I know, you will get through this as it gets better as time goes on" Yeah I've been strong all my life but this has crushed me, I just want to let go and cry my eyes out if I want.

I truly believe these words attributed to Rose Kennedy:

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone." - Rose Kennedy
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