“Because in a world where there is an immense pressure for women to look, act, and feel a certain way, when any woman decides to do something for herself and herself only, it is radical.Realizing that my body was actually mine and that I could do whatever I pleased was radically freeing. I had the opportunity to start from scratch and figure out what was beautiful in my eyes and not based on the perception of others.
I stepped outside the mold of what society defines as female beauty.
I finally took ownership of my own body, cutting myself free of the rules I thought were mandatory for women to follow.
Cutting my hair short was my way of forcing myself to redefine beauty on my own terms.
Cutting my hair led to a beautiful journey of self-love. I may have lost fifteen inches of hair, but I gained an honest love for myself that I never knew was possible.“
Above taken from the article 3 Bullsh*t Reasons Why Women Are Taught To Not Cut Our Hair Short (And Why You Can Do It Anyway). I highly recommend reading the rest of it!
In every relationship, there is a level of accumulated emotional goodwill. We’ll compare it to a bank account. We all start out with an empty bank account, and we fill it up with positive interactions with each other. When we ask something of the other person or hurt them, we drain some of that goodwill. If we deposit more than we withdraw, then we have good relationships. If one person withdraws but rarely deposits, we eventually run out of goodwill and then a negative balance occurs- this is when frustration and anger comes up.
Here’s the problem with being a Christian in America– some of you are constantly draining our tanks of goodwill and you don’t even realize it. You assume that we should be totally fine with how you’re treating us, and that we should never complain about it. Then when you make yet another withdrawal on an empty balance, we snap. You can’t figure out why we’re upset because you don’t understand how you’re draining us on a daily basis.
This is how some of you drain our tanks of goodwill:
- When people change their beliefs, you make them feel bad about it. “You’ve disappointed us by changing your beliefs and making decisions we don’t approve of. We can’t be happy because you don’t share our beliefs anymore.” Forcing someone to choose between their conscience and making their family happy is a terrible burden to put on anyone. I am not responsible for your happiness. If you cannot be happy because I don’t share your beliefs, then you have a personal problem and you’re taking that problem out on me. That’s unfair.
- When people change their beliefs, you accuse them of abandoning or betraying you. But we’re just following our conscience, same as you. Just because I started out believing something doesn’t mean I am obligated to continuing believing it. In fact, changing our minds is a normal part of growing up. Of course I started out as a Christian- I didn’t know anything else! One of the worst feelings in the world is knowing that you have failed the expectations of those you love.
- “There is something seriously wrong with you for thinking this way. You are a broken, immoral person for not thinking like us. You must be deceived by the Devil or be mentally compromised somehow; it’s inconceivable that you could change your mind without something being terribly wrong with you. You must be going crazy!” If you have said or implied any of this to your loved ones, then congratulations! You have most likely ripped a hole through their heart and they will forever bear the scars. You have made them feel like a pile of horse dung, destroyed their self esteem and self confidence, and then when they get upset with you for hurting them so much you’ll shake your head and wonder “what did I ever do to them?”
- Unresolved conflict. Problems don’t just go away because we don’t talk about them. If you’ve hurt someone and have refused to change the hurtful attitudes or actions, or if you won’t even acknowledge that the hurt took place and apologize, then the other person will be forced to deal with that pain in silence even if you have forgotten about it. Every time you post or say something that reminds the person of the hurt you caused them, you are reopening the wound all over again. The only way to solve this is to stop avoiding the problem and fix it head on. If you won’t fix it, then don’t complain when the people you’ve hurt sometimes get emotionally triggered and get upset with you over seemingly nothing. It’s not nothing; it’s all the underlying hurt that hasn’t been resolved. You just poured more salt in the wound and then wonder why they’re mad again.
- You knowingly and willingly worship a god that you believe will melt the flesh from my bones because I believe the wrong things. The fact that you think I deserve this kind of punishment makes me sick to my stomach if I think about it for too long. Sure, you have a right to believe this way, but you’re not free from how this makes your loved ones feel.
- You demonize those who disagree with you. It’s one thing to say “I don’t agree with your opinion on this matter.” It’s another thing to imply or outright say that the other person has no morals, is incapable of sound judgment (“deceived by the Devil”), does not deserve compassion if they make decisions you don’t like, and so on. I have many Christian friends, and most of them I get along with perfectly fine because they don’t make me feel inferior to them– we respect each other even when we disagree. So if people are getting mad at how you’re expressing your beliefs, it might be time to reevaluate your methods and attitudes. Don’t blame us for getting mad at you if you’re making yourself needlessly offensive to people.
- You demean us. “Gay people are unnatural and deviant and they are sexual predators. They will destroy society! I can’t have those perverts around my children. Transgender people are abnormal and shouldn’t be accepted by civilized society. Atheists can’t be trusted. They’re always angry and selfish. They can’t possibly have moral standards and they’re going to ruin society.” Listen carefully- THIS IS VERY HURTFUL STUFF YOU’RE SAYING OR IMPLYING HERE. Also, LGBTQ people face high rates of suicide and assault because these attitudes and inaccurate stereotypes keep being perpetuated and used against us. Something to keep in mind.
- You tell me what I believe. When my beliefs changed, many Christians immediately applied their atheist/Pro Choice/Feminist/Liberal stereotypes onto me without even bothering to find out who I really was and what I actually believed. And most of their stereotypes were wrong. So they created an image of me in their head that was based on fiction, not fact, and then couldn’t understand why I was upset.
- You oppress others. Disagreeing with someone is one thing. Even if you’re rude, I can still work around that. But opposing their legal rights? That’s a different story. It’s gone from disagreement to you actively forcing your personal beliefs onto them. Opposing my right to make my own decisions in regards to who I marry, how I plan my family, and opposing my right to not be discriminated against… when you do these things, the message you send is this: “I should make your decisions for you. You aren’t good enough to choose your own path. My personal beliefs are more important than your personal liberty.”
- Your “Us vs Them” attitude. Mainstream Christianity has declared war on the rest of society because they cannot tolerate the rest of us living or believing things differently than them. And many of you align yourself with this movement and say the same things that they do. If we’re not on the same side as you, then we are either potential converts or enemy combatants. And then when we say “Hey! Back off and let us live in peace! Just end the war already and coexist with us!” you claim that we are attacking you. When you start a war, don’t be surprised when people fight back and tell you that you’re not very nice.
- You equate disagreement with persecution. People disagreeing with you or telling you that you’re hurting them is not persecution. People asking for the same rights you have is not persecution.
We hear these messages constantly, day in and day out, sometimes with flowery language but sometimes almost as bluntly as I wrote it here. (Did I tell you about the Christian online who told me that I deserved to lose most of my friends when my beliefs changed?)
There is nothing wrong with me for being an atheist, for being Pro Choice, a Liberal, or for not being heterosexual. And yet so many people have made it very clear that these parts of me are utterly unacceptable to them- there is something wrong with me because I don’t agree with them anymore.
I’m crying as I write this. You cannot tell me that I’m deficient and a bad person for changing my beliefs without hurting me deeply. There is nothing wrong with me– and yet you think there is. I will never be whole again in your eyes.
Well guess what? Being rejected and judged for who you are hurts, and it causes low self esteem and stress. So in a way, people create their own self-fulfilling prophecies. “People who leave the faith are always angry and lash out at us!” Well of course we are angry! You spend so much effort making us feel inadequate and bad for not believing like you- of course we will not be happy with you and will probably be mad at your religion when we finally leave it! Yes, sometimes people go overboard (I did at first), but you are also making it pretty rough for ex-Christians and then blame us when we get upset.
The Tank Gets Drained
So our tank of emotional goodwill gets drained, and drained, and drained some more. What happens when the tank gets empty and then you make another withdrawal? It goes into the negative and we get irritated. We develop a short fuse with you. You’re taking and taking without depositing enough to fill it back up again. So when you are not depositing, but then make a withdrawal (like posting another thing that reminds me of how little you think of me), you have now pushed us into the negative. It should not surprise you when we get snappy with you when this occurs- after all, you have been abusing our goodwill bank for a very long time.
Understand Your Position of Dominance and Privilege.
Yes, this goodwill bank account thing does go both ways. You have a goodwill tank with us too and we also need to be mindful of how we treat you in return. I’ve never claimed to be perfect at this, and I’ve apologized before for responding in ways that I shouldn’t. But you must understand the difference in power and social dominance here, and understand that for the most part we are forced to be on the defensive against you when we would much rather just live in peace.
As Christians in the USA, you are in the majority- 70% Christians (of various sects) versus 3% atheists and 3.4% LGBTQ.
Please read those stats again. WE ARE THE MINORITY HERE. BY A LANDSLIDE.
When we say something against you, it is NOT the same as you saying it against us because we do not have the social power and privilege behind it like you do. You’re in the overwhelming majority; we’re so small that we have to scream to even be heard compared to you. We face social ostracizing and rates of physical violence and discrimination that many Christians simply can’t relate to because they’re never had to personally see or experience it for themselves. They’re so used to their position of social dominance and privilege that they can’t comprehend what it’s like to live in the US and not have those freedoms.
Almost all of our political leaders identify as Christians. They pray and believe in God, like you.
For LGBTQ or non-Christians to earn the SAME rights as Heterosexual Christians, we have to fight tooth and nail for it just like women and people of color have had to fight for theirs.
And even when we finally win and get some equality, mainstream Christianity gangs up on us to take our rights away again. How many Christian politicians talk about reversing marriage equality, or ending safe abortion access?
Do you have any idea how many millions of dollars are spent by American Christians just to oppose LGBTQ equal rights? It is literally a nationwide campaign to make sure LGBTQ people have to live by Christian values. And in return? LGBTQ people have never once tried to pass laws requiring Christians to marry someone of the same gender, or to become transgender. All we want are equal rights and to be treated with dignity, just like women and people of color have fought for. That is not persecution. This is us asking to be treated fairly, and Mainstream Christianity is freaking out that they don’t get to control us anymore.
Mainstream American Christianity is a massive social machine with one focus- to make America a Christian nation. Christians of this sort are constantly pushing to have their beliefs be adopted by all of society- and then they wonder why minorities like me, who have very little voting power or social power in comparison to them, get so angry about it. You’re acting like bullies, guys. 70% Christians vs 3% atheists/3.4% LGBTQ and you act like this is a fair fight, or that you are somehow the victims.
So you and people like you are draining our goodwill all the time even if you’re not talking to us directly. We see the things you say and support regarding people like us, and we’re not impressed. We are a pitifully small minority in comparison to you, and yet you use your massive influence to paint us as awful people and you actively fight our equality. Our goodwill bank account is constantly in a state of withdrawal, and we are expected to put up with this treatment from you even when you give us nothing in return and contribute to immense societal harm against us. If we object, then we are accused of attacking you.
Expressing Your Beliefs Without Oppressing Others.
If you want non-Christians to stop getting so easily upset with you, then look at how much you and your fellow Christians are draining from our goodwill banks.
When you tear us down by constantly telling saying how bad you think people like us are, are you making a conscious effort to build us back up again? (And no, telling us about Jesus does not count. That’s only a good thing in your world, not ours.) If you want us to respect you, then stop beating us down with your Bible and politics and start making positive deposits into our lives!
It’s hard to get angry at someone who makes you feel good about yourself. And you know what? When you build people up instead of tearing them down, they may actually start to open up to what you have to say. Even if they don’t agree with it, they’re not likely to be hostile towards you if you have treated them with respect and dignity and supported them when they’re being persecuted and needed help.
If you align yourself with Mainstream Christianity, we may start out very apprehensive or nervous around you because we’ve been burned by people affiliated with you so many times before. You can show us that you’re different- and we’d love to see that! But if you do or say the same things to us that everyone else does, then don’t get offended when we respond to you like we do to them- with irritation and justified anger. You’ve shown you’re no different than the other millions of Christians that have made the USA an awful place for us to live in.
So how can you express your beliefs without being oppressive?
First, stop crying persecution all the time. This isn’t the Middle East. It’s very frustrating when you say we’re persecuting you when we just want you to leave us alone so we can live in peace. Or, for you to say we’re attacking you when we ask to be treated as equals. Yes, some people are jerks and will argue or throw insults over anything and they’re out of line, but most of us have genuine grievances and have good reason to be angry. That doesn’t mean we’re persecuting you.
Second, make sure you are treating us with respect and dignity. You greatly outnumber us, so it gets overwhelming dealing with stuff like this from all of you all the time. Don’t be another hurtful voice in a sea of hurtful voices. You will not win anyone to Christianity that way. You just make people even more hostile to your religion because you’re hurting us with it.
Thirdly, do not oppose our equal rights. You like having the freedom to make your own decisions, right? You wouldn’t want someone else’s personal beliefs to be forced on you, so don’t do that to us. If anyone ever tried to make it illegal for you to go to church, I’d be right there fighting for your rights. Why? Because I stand for equality- not just for me, but for everyone. It would be nice if you felt my rights were worth fighting for too, but if you can’t support me then at LEAST don’t be one of the ones oppressing me.
Sorry this was long, but there are years of pain and frustration that needed an outlet. If you took the time to read it all, perhaps you’ll understand me a bit better now. Either way, I wish you well.
The mind is like the rest of the body. When we’re healthy, we can handle far more physical illness or injury than we could if we were already sick or hurt. If I get a cold when I’ve been healthy, recovery shouldn’t be too hard. But if I’m already worn out from a flu the week before, that cold will hit a lot harder and probably last longer. Mental health is no different.
Responses to grief can become far worse when a loss occurs after mental health is already compromised. Each loss compounds on the last because the last wasn’t fully healed yet. In my case, major losses and stress have been compounding for years. At this point I can’t even tell which one I’m grieving a lot of the time. Did I really heal from the earlier ones? Are they all there in my head somewhere? Probably.
I don’t know what it’s like to have a depression disorder. However, grief often involves depression, at least temporarily. It can also be much harder to deal with if the grief is severe or compounded, sometimes becoming a temporary or long term disorder if it’s not dealt with properly and in a timely manner after the loss.
Lately I’ve been dealing with feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and I feel like I can’t do anything right. I obsess over things I say or do far more than usual, even little things, thinking I must have fucked it up somehow. Sadness is always right there under the surface waiting for a reason to surface and send me into another spiral of negative emotion. This morning I woke up and within half an hour I was crying. Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense, nothing bad or triggering has even had a chance to happen yet today.
But grief is strange. It fluctuates. Some days I’m happy and feel carefree again, and it’s a beautiful ray of sunshine that I cling to with both hands because I know it may not be long before anxiety and depression symptoms come back and cruelly tear it away again. I’ve always been a pretty happy upbeat person; happiness is something I took for granted. But like health, we don’t always appreciate it until it’s under threat. Not that I’m sad all the time, but lately when I’m not sad I’m often just “neutral” with a side of melancholy.
Part of addressing my mental health involves trying to recognize what I feel and why. Understanding that these feelings of worthlessness and guilt and failure are largely stemming from normal grief symptoms, while it doesn’t make them go away, does help me deal with them a little better. I know that my emotional feelings of failure may not actually be grounded in reality. Just because I worry that I said or did the wrong thing doesn’t mean I did. And if I did, is it really the end of the world? Maybe, but probably not. Life goes on even when we mess up. Everything feels like a bigger deal in my head, especially since I have always hated the idea of hurting anyone. If I accidentally screw up and become aware of it, I’ll apologize and do whatever it takes to make it right. That and learning from my mistakes is all I can really do.
To those who deal with depression and other mental health disorders regularly: People don’t give you anywhere near enough credit for what you deal with everyday. You may not either, especially if your disorder causes you to feel like a failure. But every day that you pick up the pieces and keep going as best you can anyways is a battle you’ve won, even if it doesn’t feel like it. You’re a warrior fighting a battle that few really understand or appreciate.
Growing up I heard the phrase “God won’t send you anything you can’t handle!” I’ve heard similar cliches along that same line of thought even outside of a religious context. The idea is the same: We’re supposedly capable of handling anything that life throws at us, if we just try hard enough.
Sometimes life throws more at us than we can possibly handle.
It’s why we sometimes curl up in a little ball, unable to function because what life has thrown our way is more than we can rationally deal with.
It’s why some turn to substance abuse or self harm.
It’s why some end their own lives.
It’s why people die of disease or injury. Can you honestly tell me that someone who died suddenly of a fatal disease or a violent crime was able to handle what life threw at them? They may have fought valiantly, but in the end the disease or their assailant won.
Life isn’t fair. It doesn’t look at our emotional or physical strengths and dole out just enough to mess us up without actually destroying us. Watch any nature documentary and you’ll see how insensitive life truly is to what an individual wants or needs. It CAN destroy us. And you don’t have to be six feet under for life to have destroyed you.
I’m not going to tell you that you can get through anything if you simply try hard enough or think lots of positive thoughts. Sometimes it’s just not enough. But I am going to tell you that you should never stop trying. Why? Because the moment we stop trying is the moment we lose any chance of getting through it.
If there’s even the slightest hope of reaching the light at the end of whatever dark tunnel we’re trudging through, we must do what all life has evolved to do- try our best to survive.
Sometimes we can’t see a light anywhere. It’s just darkness and pain. In those moments we may need the help of those we trust to help us see that there is still hope, that life is still worth fighting for. Other times, there truly isn’t a reasonable hope. When someone is undeniably at death’s door, there comes a point where it’s better to cherish those last moments in peace instead of pointlessly fighting the inevitable. But until then, hope is not lost. Even if it’s more than you can handle, as long as you’re still alive your story still has room for happier chapters.
I’m only 27, but I’ve already been through more life insanity than many people twice my age. Those who follow my blog know about a small portion of it. Though I certainly can’t pretend to understand everyone else’s life struggles, I do know what it’s like to have to face the unfaceable and somehow get up and keep going anyways. I know how it feels to be knocked flat on my back over and over, barely being able to catch my breath before another blow comes to knock me down again. But despite all of it, life is still worth fighting for. I know that as long as I’m still breathing there is hope for better days, even if I can’t see it in that exact moment. I know this because I’ve had beautiful moments in life too. In between the chaos and horror, life has shown me beauty and love and happiness too. They’re easily forgotten in the midst of an unbearable event, but that doesn’t mean they never happened or that they can’t ever happen again. And those glimpses of happiness and beauty remind me that life isn’t all bad; it’s still worth fighting for.
I’m not suicidal. Please don’t worry about that. But recently someone in my local community took their own life, and I know many others are dealing with unbearable life circumstances. If you are dealing with suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone who can help you.
When well-meaning people say that “There is no comfort or hope without Jesus” or “You can’t get through loss without faith” when addressing people who may not share those beliefs, what’s essentially happening is that they are putting down other people’s beliefs and methods of dealing with grief in order to promote their own. It’s exactly what a salesman does- they belittle their competition so their own product is more enticing.
You may personally need Jesus for comfort and hope. But I do not. And that’s ok.
As an atheist, I don’t need prayer or faith to get through sadness and loss. I’ve lived in both belief systems, and I can tell you from extensive personal experience as an ex-Christian that neither offers a superior method of comfort. They’re just different, and some people may do better with one method over another. We all grieve and find solace in different ways; what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. I acknowledge this, and I don’t tell religious people that prayer is useless as a comfort method just because I personally find no solace in it. That would be incredibly rude and hurtful, and also untrue since prayer is a great comfort to many. It used to be for me too, after all. But lately I have heard so many well meaning people say or imply that their faith and their beliefs are the only way to get through difficult life circumstances. And given recent events, it’s been incredibly frustrating- especially since these exact things were said at the funeral. I sat there, listening to people blatantly say that their method of hope and comfort is the only one that works. No hope without Jesus. No comfort without their religion. Anyone who isn’t a Christian must have hopeless, meaningless lives and couldn’t possibly get through this grief. But it’s not remotely true.
Not gonna lie, hearing those words in that context was so hurtful that I felt like punching a wall or leaving the room. Having the loss of my loved one be so blatantly used to push someone else’s belief system on me in my time of grief was nearly unbearable. But I don’t like making scenes and the focus of the day was supposed to be about our loved one, so I held my peace. Afterwards I went to the bathroom where I bawled my eyes out in a toilet stall because one again my beliefs had been belittled and put down so others could promote their own- and right when I most needed support and to feel emotionally safe and accepted. Once again it was made very clear to me that some Christians will never see my beliefs as worthy of recognition and respect and validation; I will always be their project in need of fixing, the heathen in need of conversion. The only beliefs that mattered were Christian ones.
It would have been far easier if all the many people who have said these things had bad intentions. I could have just written them off as rude, but they were well-intentioned people just trying to help. They genuinely thought this was the best way to act. I’ve always tried my best to give people the benefit of the doubt; that hasn’t changed.
I’m bringing this up now because the people who say these things usually don’t realize how hurtful it is to those who don’t share their beliefs. If nobody ever makes them aware of it in a way that fosters respectful conversation, how can we ever mend bridges and learn to get along better? How will they ever learn to stop pushing away the very people that they’re trying to win over?
I’m also sharing this because if I say nothing, people will assume that I’m perfectly fine with them assuming that it’s ok to act this way towards me. I’m not. I am just to polite to make a scene in the moment.
I don’t hate anyone for saying these things, and I won’t hold a grudge, but I’m really (really!) not ok with it. I waited so I could express my feelings without allowing too much hurt to affect my ability to address this without lashing out.
There is nothing wrong with finding comfort or hope in prayer or a religion or in spirituality. It really doesn’t bother me when I see people pray for their own comfort or when they pray for others who want to be included in that, or if they give thanks for their food without expecting me to join in. That’s fine! Go for it! However, the superiority and exclusionary ideology that puts certain Christians’ beliefs and methods on a pedestal above everybody else’s does bother me- especially when I’m grieving and would like for my beliefs to ALSO be respected and acknowledged as valid and important, even if it’s just done by keeping things more neutral when in potentially mixed company. I don’t expect religious people to do atheist things to make me feel comfortable. I want to make that very clear. I don’t need others to participate in my personal traditions in order to feel respected and validated. Honestly I’d much rather try to make everybody feel welcome and accepted no matter what their beliefs are, and to focus on the life of the person who has passed, rather than focusing on ideologies and people’s personal beliefs which people are surely going to disagree on. It’s the exclusion and the implication that my beliefs are inferior and useless that makes me angry and hurt, not the fact that others believe in God and pray.
Please, hear me. Do not ever tell a non-believer that they have no hope or comfort just because they don’t believe like you. It’s pretty much the most hurtful thing you could possibly say to an atheist when they are grieving. Your good intentions may help us look past it, but they don’t make the words any less hurtful or exclusionary.
Are you a believer who is unsure how to act around non-believers in these situations? Feel free to ask here. I promise I won’t bite. I’ll just be happy that you care enough to try to learn how to interact with us better. Are you an atheist or someone of another belief system who has experienced similar things? Share them if you wish. Everyone must be respectful, however. I wrote this to try to build a better understanding between those who so often just do not understand each other, not to facilitate pointless arguments. We can share our frustrations and grievances in a reasonable manner. Anyone who resorts to name calling or attacks other people personally will be banned.
So this huge loss has taught me a lot of lessons about grief and how people respond to it (or how they should respond to it). I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who recently lost a close loved one suddenly to illness, but this can also apply to people who have recently experienced other traumatic losses and life changes as well.
Have realistic expectations.
The people most affected by the loss are going to be stressed and grieving even if you don’t personally see it outwardly. It may go on for a very long time, depending on the cause and extent of the grief. A few of the many potential symptoms of stress and grief are:
* Loss of appetite
* Sleep disruption
* Fatigue even after a full night’s sleep
* Mood swings that may be extreme at times
* Symptoms similar to depression
* Feeling overwhelmed by large groups of people or specific social situations
* Sensory overload, such as bright lights and loud noises causing distress
* Memory triggers that can result in waves of emotion at the drop of a hat
* Denial or avoidance of reality
* Shutting down emotions to protect themselves (this may come in waves)
* Virtually any emotion you can think of accelerated far above normal levels for that person
* Memory and focus problems that may affect work, school, conversations, social situations, and so on.
* Wanting to be alone (or the exact opposite)
* Orgasms may be difficult or impossible for some people
* Interest in sex may diminish, increase, or change drastically
* Risky or harmful behavior may occur
You may be able to recognize some of these symptoms outwardly, but others often hide very well. You may never see the full effects of their grief; they may look like they’re back to normal. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that someone who just suffered a traumatic loss is now fine just because they start doing many of the things they used to do. For many people their old routines and favorite activities feel safe even whether they’re actually enjoying them or not. Or those moments of enjoyment may be merely spacers between periods of depression and emotional chaos.
Other things to remember:
They’re probably very behind on responding to all the various types of messages they’ve received and they likely have many unusual demands on their attention, time, and energy. Don’t take it personally if it takes them a while to reply to your message or if they miss it in the chaos.
There are always some people who have no respect for their loss and the trauma it involves. They might be pushy, demanding, belittle or invalidate their suffering, blame the person for not handling things their way or in their time frame, or use the situation to push their opinions or religion onto the grieving person. And there are always people who are trying to tell them how they should grieve and who may even chide them for it. This causes even more stress.
There are often unexpected costs involved after someone’s death so they might be having financial difficulties. They might also be doing just fine so giving them money may not be necessary or desired. It’s often best to ask them what they actually need.
Their grief and stress symptoms may be causing difficulties at school, work, in social situations, etc.
Don’t tell people how to grieve.
We’re all different. Some of us need space, others need people there to comfort them. Some won’t show many signs of grief outwardly and it can be easy to erroneously assume that they’re back to their normal selves. Or maybe they haven’t been able to process the loss yet. It can take time for it to really sink in. Others may cry at the drop of a hat anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Others might not be able to eat or sleep, whether they cry outwardly or not. Some rely on prayer and religion for comfort, others don’t. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Offer advice and help if they’re open to it, but don’t imply that your way is the only way to effectively manage grief. It isn’t.
The Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are great information tools, but as the original author later clarified, it’s not a series of linear steps for people to try to follow. They’re simply common experiences that might occur for us at any time or in any order, or even several at once. While acceptance is the goal for many, acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re ok with the loss. It might mean that we’ve simply accepted that it happened and we have to live with it now. Pushing people through these stages because you think they ought to be in a different one is not helpful.
Let people grieve.
It’s normal. And it’s actually very important to go through the grieving process. It may sound weird to some, but experiencing all these awful things is better than holding it in or pretending it doesn’t exist. It’ll just cause more problems in the long run.
If their more extreme symptoms of grief and stress continue for long periods of time and start to cause health problems or other damaging results such as potential job loss, or if you have concerns about suicidal thoughts or self harm, then it’s ok to get worried and to step in. But until then, let them grieve and don’t make them feel like they’re abnormal for it.
Accept people are they are.
This is not the time to try to change people. Accept them as they are, not as you’d like them to be.
For others who have experienced a traumatic loss or have seen people they know go through it, are there things you’d add to this? And for those who have little or no experience with this, do you have questions about how to support people dealing with grief? Since everyone grieves so differently, it can sometimes be hard to know what to say or what to do. I’ve been on the other end too so I know that feeling.