What Is Not Helpful to the Person in Mourning: A List of "Dont's"

 Be aware of what is not helpful to the person in mourning. 

 Do not:

$Expect your friend to mourn or heal in certain ways or within a certain time frame.

$Deliberately avoid the subject of death, change the subject, or act as if nothing has happened.

$Talk about your own losses, especially early on; this shifts the attention onto you.

$Use judgmental words like Ashould@ and Ashouldn=t.@

$Begin a sentence with the words AAt least . . .@

$Offer unsolicited advice.

$Compare one loss with another, or offer judgments about which loss was worse.

$Take it personally if your friend rebuffs your invitations.  Try again another day, and realize that grief requires being left alone at times.  The mourner needs some time to turn inward, to ponder the deeper meaning of life and death.

$Try to change what your friend is thinking or feeling.

$Talk down to the person, in a patronizing way, as if you are the expert.

$Try to fill up every moment with conversation.  Become comfortable with silence.

$Ignore warning signs of self-destructive behavior: alcohol, drugs, depression, suicide. Confront the person directly, or organize an intervention with family and friends.

$Wait for your friend to initiate contact (i.e., call, write or visit).

$Wait until tomorrow or make promises you cannot (or will not) keep.  Follow through with whatever you have planned or promised.

$Wait to be asked; this places the burden on the mourner.

$Expect gratitude for your efforts.  A person in pain is focused inward and self absorbed, with little room for gratitude.  If you offer help, make sure that it is wanted, and don=t feel hurt or rejected if it is not.

$Push or expect the mourner to sort through and distribute a loved one=s things.

$Take away the mourner=s autonomy by doing too much for her or making major decisions that rightfully belong to her.

$Expect the mourner to begin to reenter social life on other than his/her own time frame.

$Try to rescue someone from her regrets; she needs time to sort them out, until she is eventually able to forgive herself.

$Force food on the person if he is not interested in eating.

$Expect the mourner to be Aover it@ within weeks, months or even years.

$Try to do everything by yourself, or try to fix everything.


Copyright by Martha M. Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC    All rights reserved

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