When we are bereaved our fuse gets shorter and grace is a little harder to muster, so often we take offense to what other people say and are quick to snap back. I’m not here to invalidate your emotions or actions, but rather encourage you to take a breath and consider your reaction before responding.
An example of this would be:
Supporter says: “He’s in a better place.”
You hear: “There’s a place that’s better for him than being here with you.”
This is a common miscommunication and there’s a whole lot of projecting going on here. The supporter is projecting their beliefs about afterlife on you or falling back on a cliché that they assume will be mutually understood as support, all while you’re inferring that they’re saying something literal and hurtful. Your brain is going to interpret what is said before you can stop it and you’re going to have an emotional response.
Now, what you do with that emotional response is up to you. This is where taking a breath and tapping your reserves of grace can come in handy. You’ll never control what people say or do, you’ll only control how you react to them. (In moments when someone’s words are grating me to the core I use this idea like a mantra in my mind: I cannot control what other people say or do, only how I react. I cannot control what others say or do, only how I react…)
During that little pause decide how you want to react, consider who the person is and the likely intent of what they just said. In the example, though you might not share in their same beliefs, the person is trying to offer you what brings them comfort. Though it shows no consideration for your beliefs, the supporter’s intent was to comfort you with an idea that comforts them.
In the time after an important loss you’re going to be more emotionally raw and reactive and that’s fine. My word of caution is to try and be aware of when you’re doing it, because the more time you spend feeling entitled to a short fuse the more you train your brain toward that behavior.
Stay aware of how you’re treating those around you, and when your short fuse fires, offer yourself some grace and forgiveness knowing you’re doing the best you can right now. Then be quick to apologize, aware that this is not how you want to treat people for the rest of your life. Hopefully they’ll return the grace and accept your apology, however they may not, in which case it’s good to keep in mind that you can’t control what people do or say, only how you react to it.
Thanks for visiting Grief Compass. We’re sorry you have to be here, but are glad we’ve found each other.