Nope, I’m So NOT Okay. But Thanks for Asking! – The BEST Thing to Say to a Person Grieving
“It’s been one HELLUVA ride, but I’m okay.”
That’s the response I find myself uttering to the hundreds of well-meaning people who bombard me with the only question they feel is safe to ask…
How are you doing?
It’s not their fault they don’t know what to say. Shoot, I never knew what to say either. Sometimes I still don’t.
Society has groomed us to put on a happy face and pull up our big-kid panties, because God forbid, we make any situation uncomfortable. I mean, how would someone respond if I answered, “Well, the same year I had to have my uterus ripped out, diminishing any chance to have more kids, was the same year my sister was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Oh! She died, a few months ago, by the way. And hey! My grandfather, with whom I was extremely close, died last week. So, yeah. I’m kind of righteously not okay?” (True story, BTW)
But I get it. Human beings want to comfort those they love, and it’s a lot easier to let them if we respond in a way that allows them to fulfill this desire, and for that reason, I suck it up, far more than I’d like.
Each person on the planet is created differently, just as each person deals with grief in their own, personal way. Some of us want to talk about it, and some of us don’t. Some of us cry, and some of us laugh. Some of us need to surround ourselves with our friends and family constantly, and some of us hide out in our home for weeks or months on end. It’s truly not you, it’s us.
So, what do we say to people who are dealing with loss and grief? Are any questions truly safe?
The other day I was chatting with a girlfriend of mine. This sweet, genuine soul witnessed my entire journey, from the time my hysterectomy happened, during my sister’s diagnosis and death, right up until my grandfather died. A few days ago, she showed up at my home, not caring that my eyes were swollen and puffy, that my house looked like a frat den, or that I smelled like a living nightmare. She simply wanted to see if I was okay, with a bottle of wine in tow (if you don’t have friends like this, you need to find some new friends). Anyhow, as we sat at a bistro table on my deck, catching up on life and soaking up the last sun beams of the day, she told me something so profound that I just had to share it with the masses:
“MB,” she said, “I want to say the right thing to you right now, but nothing is going to take away the pain.” She held up her wine glass for cheers and continued, “Just know that I love you and I’m here for you if you ever want to talk.”
And that was it.
Boom. She nailed it.
Now, as I mentioned before, I’m one person dealing with loss in my own, unique way, so what makes sense to me might not for another. But man. Her words touched me, deeply. She didn’t ask the question that put me in the dreaded position to alter the truth. She simply let me know that she would be an outlet, a resource, a loving, non-judgmental ear should I need one. With that small statement she gave me a huge gift, the permission I’d subconsciously been longing for; it’s okay to feel all the feelings and to let them out around me.
A weight was instantly lifted, and I started sobbing like a child who just had their Halloween candy stolen by creepy clowns. We are talking hyperventilating, wine-spilling, convulsing sobs. I didn’t know how much I needed to let it out until that moment.
It is human nature to feel the need to be strong and resilient. But, IT IS OKAY to break down. It is scientifically proven to be good for your health to NOT hold things in. Loss is usually new, unfamiliar territory, and it is only natural that we turn into weird, blubbering, overly-emotional beings (trust me, I’m an expert).
I truly believe that all any person dealing with grief needs is permission to grieve! Like, openly and honestly grieve. We are trying to be strong for our family, our clients, hell, even our energy-feeling pets. How long can that last before we turn our lives (and our health) inside out?
If you are reading this, chances are that you are either dealing with loss, or know someone who is. Whatever your situation,
SPREAD. THE. WORD.
On behalf of every person who has, or ever will experience loss, I thank you.