Dating someone who is grieving

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Excerpted from Getting Grief Right, by Patrick O’Malley and written with Tim Madigan. We tend, as a culture, to be uncomfortable with anything that isn’t efficient, productive and easily distilled into an elevator speech.

As I was devouring the book, one part that stood out was a list of what to say (and NOT say) when consoling a friend. What NOT to say O’Malley points out that these sayings imply that there is timetable for grief: “Time heals all wounds” “You have to move on” “Grief happens in stages” “I hope you find closure” These next phrases, he points out, are by-products of a culture that rewards positivity: “He wouldn’t want you to be sad” “It’s important to stay busy and productive” “This will make you stronger” “You have your whole life ahead of you” “At least you’re young enough to have another child/remarry” And these religious thoughts might imply that a faithful person should not mourn: “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” “God has a plan” “Everything happens for a reason” “He/she is in a better place” “It was her/his time to go” Also, ‘my thoughts and prayers are with you’ and ‘Let me know if there is anything I can do’ are two phrases that are said so often that the words have lost meaning, says O’Malley: “Comedian George Carlin imagined a bereaved person replying, ‘Yeah, you can come over this weekend and paint my garage.'” What to do and say Here are some of O’Malley’s wonderful ideas of ways to help: – Simply say, “I’m very sorry.” – Bring a meal on the two-month anniversary of a death.

And I can carry other people’s bags, too.” Is there anything you’d add to these lists? Thoughts on grief, and how to write a condolence note.

Sending a hug to anyone who is missing someone today. (Photo by Elif; illustration by Christopher David Ryan.

Loss is a difficult thing to work through and your role as a supporter is both unique and vital.

Patrick O’Malley, a Texas-based grief therapist who lost his infant son, wrote a beautiful, beautiful Modern Love essay a couple years ago.

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