I’m sure anyone dealing with any kind of crisis is met, at times, with certain degrees of ignorance by, perhaps otherwise, well meaning people. But being well meaning does not make ignorant comments more palatable.
In grief, some of those ignorant comments are
“she’s in a better place now”
“it’s time for you to move on now isn’t it?”
Things like that speak more to the person’s discomfort who’s delivering the line than the person receiving it. No, they are not in a “better place” as the “best place” for them to be is right next to me is how most people will feel, especially right at the beginning. And the timing people move on is dictated by their own process and no one else’s.
I get it, people don’t know what to say so they will resort to platitudes but you know the people who’ve walked a grief path by the way they respond in the moment.
Supportive words are more about meeting people right where they are, not trying to pull them out of it. Words like “I know you are in a world of hurting right now but I’m not leaving your side”.
Another phrase that I’ve learned to loathe and do my best to avoid is “if there’s anything you need, just let me know”. Why that bugs me is that the phraser has just laid another burden on the griever. Well two burdens. One is to identify something they might actually need when they are just trying to remember if they brushed their teeth that day. And two, it’s making them have to ask for it.
I think it’s not that hard to just intuit what anyone might need in that kind of crisis and just do it. The people that are the best at supporting someone in a crisis are the ones who just move in to action. They show up with food. They show up with some kind of comfort anything. They reach in to your life vs. pull away and make you reach in to theirs. Most of the time there’s rarely a wrong thing to offer. The offering is the ice cream. What you’re holding in your outstretched arms is the cherry.
I ran in to one of those ignorant comments this morning about John.
I’ve shared about John on a public forum I’ve participated on for years that focuses on crime. Before I started this blog, I posted on there quite a bit about our struggles but now just little snippets as people on there are concerned about him. About us. I was attending a trial and posting regularly on it and during one month of that John was in the hospital. I literally spent my days working in the morning, attending the trial in the afternoon and visiting John in the hospital in the evenings for a solid month. It was a grueling time but I did it. I know many of you readers from that time and appreciate so much your support. But occasionally many of you know, have run in to a nastigram on that forum.
What I opened my ipad to this morning was this. This was posted in response to my sharing about the fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans meal I brought home for John when he first came to stay with me. When his voices were at a level 10 and I was doing my best to keep him out of the hospital.
Yet this stranger on this public forum, felt the need to share these words with me, I suppose in some desire to help:
Give him the juice too! All the crappy foods can’t help? wow Give him better foods. You work in the healing arts … right?
Then I guess the pedestal she had placed herself on wasn’t quite feeling high enough so she felt the need to bolster that comment with this one:
No white foods. No deep fried junk. There is a lot you can do without feeding him the junk . foods. That stuff is not giving anybody a favor. Sorry, but true.
Ok, now that you’ve had a moment to digest that, I will say that I really hate it when someone uses a “sorry” like that in a passive aggressive way. I just had conversation about this recently. If you’re going to apologize, then apologize. If not, then you’re not “sorry”. Someone shared something with me the other day about a person stating “I’m sorry you got so triggered by my words”. Now that is the farthest thing from an apology. It’s a digging in to the words that were hurtful and passive aggressively blaming the person for reacting to them. That kind of stuff just really bugs me. It’s just so condescending and inauthentic.
Now back to this other judgmental “helper”. I don’t even think she levied these words about me publicly to be helpful. I think she just did it to be better than me. To my knowledge this poster has never, not on any occasion, offered support to me about the situation with my brother or anything. But I do know she’s benefited by the sharing I offered from the Jodi Arias trial in to that forum after posting my trial notes from nearly every day of attending that trial. Yet somehow she felt close enough to me to so rudely offer her condescension.
How do you think John would have felt, after hallucinating for days and being in a full blown psychotic crisis and not eating, if I had said “now you’re going to come stay with me and you’re going on a juice fast because you need it”. Vs. what he got: a blanket and a plate of his favorite comfort foods. Which do you think might make you better?
This is how I responded to that ignorance:
Thank you for your “concern” but I know my brother and what I can control, what he will eat and not.eat when he’s in a crisis. The night before i gave him that comfort food dinner he had diet coke and cigarettes for dinner. i was happy to just see him eat food. Am I supposed to take away his cigarettes too? Yes I work in the healing field and I’m choosing my battles.
I welcome you to keep your judgment to yourself. You don’t know either of us or our situation. Thankfully I don’t judge my brother like you are judging me.
Oh and one more thing…a “sorry” delivered like that isn’t really an apology is it? It’s more a passive aggressive slap.
Maybe I should have ignored and just let it go. But Ricki Lake didn’t call me a Bad Ass for nothing. If I’m gonna stand at the front lines on anything, I’m gonna stand there for myself. Definitely I’m standing there for John. Maybe one day I will transcend the need to fight back but I’m in a fighting mode right now and I’m not gonna tolerate that kind of bullshit.
And I consider my public response right back to her, as well as this post right here, a Public Service Announcement.
Don’t do that to someone in a crisis. Don’t say ignorant things to people dealing with grief. It really is best to say nothing. Keep your judgments about how they are doing it all wrong to yourself and that high horse you are bouncing on.
I’ll just leave it on this quote:
“Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those of us who are doing it”
And if anyone wonders why I moderate comments on this blog, this is why. It’s very few and far between but the Internet breeds cowards and fools. Thankfully the vast majority of you reading are so far the opposite of that, it’s not a huge issue.
But to the tiny minority of nasty minded people out there, I say this, I’m a triple Scorpio and I know how to use this tail.
To quote another friend quoting another friend,” I’m nice until I’m not”.
Now to my little friend, I’ll offer you these little gifts next time you’re in a full blown crisis.
To quote Stephen Colbert, “you’re welcome!”.