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“At least….”

Last week I was honored to be invited to talk with the Tilden Presbyterian Church Women’s Circles (The Morning Glory Circle and the Ollie Dunn Circle) about Heartlink’s Grief Center and discuss, “Never Say These Six Things – well-meaning but hurtful expressions of sympathy and what to say and do instead.” The women’s groups had almost all read the book I recently authored about my family’s grief journey after losing our Mom in 1970, We Lost Her.

I felt the authentic caring and love in that room. So many of them had questions about the book and kind words about how it had impacted them. Many of the ladies in the room had traveled grief journeys of their own. Husbands, parents, and children among those they had lost. I was humbled that they felt aided in their grief by our story.

As we talked about the six things that are hurtful to say to grieving people, I saw their heads nod and listened to their stories of things people had said to them.  One of the six that resonated is the topic for this blog, “At least….” As in:

“At least he lived a long life.”

“At least she isn’t suffering anymore.”

“At least you can have other children.”

“At least you are young, you will find someone else to love and marry.”

None of these well-meaning expressions of sympathy can be heard by someone that is grieving. All the person grieving wants is for things to go back to the way they were, for their loved one to be alive, for their lives be normal again. And what they hear by our expressions of “at least….” is their grief being diminished, played down by the reasons they shouldn’t be grieving.

I’d suggest we stop saying any of these phrases. Grievers have the right to their grief, in their own time, not to be discounted. They may get to the rationalizations we could offer eventually, but let them get there when they are ready, please.

I think the picture below captures the feeling many in the room had as we talked about those that minimize grief’s effects. And it made me laugh, too.

I talked with the women in Tilden about one of my favorite things to hear as someone who is grieving. I shared with them that at author signings for We Lost Her, so many people shared memories of my mother with me.

Simple things, like, “we’d sneak off every few months and share a bottle of wine and talk about our kids and books we’d read” from one of my mother’s dear friends. (I was shocked, I never saw her drink alcohol.) Another person said she’d shared a room at the Red Bud Hospital with my Mom when I was born, she remembers how loving Mom was to her newborn and that she felt so close to us both. Another shared how much he enjoyed my Mom’s angel food cakes she’d bring to funeral lunches.

Sharing a favorite memory of their loved one is a wonderful way to honor the deceased and the person grieving. To keep their memory alive helps those grieving.

So, dear reader, your mission in the week ahead is to connect with someone you know who is grieving. Share a favorite memory you have of their loved one and help them to keep their love alive.

If you’d like a presentation for a group you belong to on “Never Say These Six Things,” please contact Lisa at the Heartlinks Grief Center office at LMurphy@myheartlinks.com to arrange a speaker.

Be Blessed,

Ellen

Ellen Krohne, author of We Lost Her, available on Amazon.com

Heartlinks Grief Center volunteer and Family Hospice board member

“We Grow Stronger Together”

 

2 Replies to ““At least….””

  1. As a widow at age 33, the “at least” comments were so very painful. We’d just married 1.5 years prior. People were still congratulating us on our marriage. Mike had just turned 38 a month before he died.

    “At least, you are still young. You can still find someone.”
    “At least, he didn’t suffer.”
    “At least, he had a good job and left you with life insurance.”

  2. The worst thing ever said to me after we lost our 30 year old son Donny.
    “Did that son of yours, what’s his name, ever die”?

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