Sometimes in grief people get easily offended, judged, and are quick to have their feelings hurt. They often times block out their friends and family, believing them to be judgmental, inconsiderate, and insensitive. But I am throwing the challenge out there, are your friends and family intentionally being insensitive, or are you (in your grief-stricken state) being overly sensitive?
Think about when you were younger and trying to make new friends. How exactly did you do that? More often times than not, you looked for commonalities, things like hobbies, likes, or interests that you shared.
Now, think about insensitive things your current friends are saying and doing. Are they drawing from their own experiences to try to comfort you and finding the wrong words and actions? Are they using words and actions that offend or seem hurtful? Like comparing your loss to a divorce, or a grandparent that had passed away? Do they not understand why you can’t just bounce back to who you were before, or why you can’t seem to get past this loss? I have to tell you that these things happened to me. I had a friend once tell me that at least I didn’t have to deal with a custody situation and an estranged ex! And another said that at least I didn’t have to go through the pain and feelings of failure associated with her divorce! All of these things offended me, especially in my overly sensitive state. They infuriated me! I mean first off, I did not have an EX anything! My husband is now my late husband, we were never divorced, our marriage didn’t end by anyone’s choice! Are they competing with me to see who’s situation is worse? Or comparing their situation to mine? I’d say it is like trying to compare apples to oranges, but in my mind we weren’t even comparing things from the same food group!
I propose…maybe it is less about comparing and competition, and more about trying to find commonality. People constantly try to find ways to connect with each other. Albeit most of the time, in our situation (as a widow or widower), it is not well founded and sometimes inappropriate. The intent of our friends is actually good. Again, I ask you…think back to how you make friends in the first place. It wasn’t until I looked at it this way that I was able to come to peace with what was said to me. There was no malicious intent. Although the content of what they were saying was all wrong, the intent was actually good. Do not let the content cloud your vision of the intent. These individuals were not trying to contrast and compare, they were trying to find common ground. They felt uneasy and awkward with the situation. This was not something they could easily relate to and were struggling to find a way to assimilate. They were trying to stay connected to their friend and they were not quite sure how or what they were doing.
Please do not get me wrong, FRIENDSHIPS change, with this experience YOU have changed, SITUATIONS change. You do not have to put up with things that are hurtful, or are intended to make you feel bad about yourself, or what you are going through. You will lose friends, change friends, and come out of this with a different life, how could you not? I am not suggesting that you stay in relationships that do not help you grow, support you, or bring positivity to your life. What I am saying is give those that do a little leeway. I am reminded of a quote from a mentor, and friend, “I am far more selective about how and where, and with whom, I spend my time.”* You have an opportunity to select the friends who support you and comfort you and build a better life without burning bridges in the process.
*Mary B. Lucas, Speaker, People Connector, and Author of Lunchmeat and Life Lessons