Recently I talked to an acquaintance who had just lost a daughter and left a grand-daughter behind.
The politically correct response, or maybe just the usual response, is “I am sorry for your loss.” And that is the WRONG thing to say. Why? Because it sends the wrong message especially when it is repeated over and over by so many people. What is the message, or rather the meta-message?
Here is what a person begins to hear after just a few “I am sorry for your loss” comments. I am so sorry for YOUR loss (not mine), — and I am not a part of it.
Imagine for a moment, or remember when you had lost a loved one. Remember or imagine how it would feel when you heard people giving you what I call a conditional and limiting condolence. Imagine how a wall was built that surrounded you in your sorrow. Others acknowledging your grief but not truly empathizing with you.
Now imagine how you would feel if people drew themselves to you and shared your grief. “I am so sorry and I share your pain with you.” If you heard that statement would you feel more a part of the community around you? If others shared your feelings and supported you by connecting with you would you feel different? Where is the wall of your pain vs our pain?
Am I being overly sensitive? I don’t think so. I have had it both ways and some of the kindest and most comforting condolences were from people who knew the grief and were willing to take some it on as a shared experience.
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P.S. One of the most comforting sympathy cards I have seen is this,
Let time heal the pain…
And love heal the heart.
May you take comfort in knowing others care.
I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved [ ].
With heartfelt condolences.