Archive for Speaking Truth – Page 2

9 Things Not To Say To Grieving People

talkingWords can wound. But I like to believe 99.99% of the awkward or unsettling things said to grieving people are unintentional.

The speaker hoped to be sincere.

The speaker didn’t want to add more hurt to the hurt.

Often the best choice when with grieving friends or family, who may be experiencing the worst pain of their life, is to say . . . nothing. But that’s the proverbial easier-said-than-done. We want them to know we care. We want them to know how we feel. We want them to know we’re willing to help.

Below is my current personal list of the “Top 9” things to avoid saying. Unlike some lists, this is not ranked. #6 can be as bad as #1. In a sense, they are in random order, but there’s nothing random about the power each possesses to add anguish to an already difficult season of life.

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#1 I know how you feel. No one knows how another feels after the death of a loved one. If the one tough death you’ve had in your life was your favorite grandmother dying, and you tell someone who just lost their spouse of five decades that you know what they’re feeling . . . you don’t. In the hospice where I currently work, we offer support groups for people with similar losses. Grieving spouses gather with others mourning a partner, husband, or wife. Grieving parents join with other parents. And so on. But even when a 65-year old widow sits beside a 66-year old widow, and both had caring husbands for over forty years, they’ve had different experiences. Maybe one struggled with prostate cancer for ten years and the other left one fine morning and died in a freeway accident. Yes, both grieve, but for all of their similarities, their differences can be immense. Read More →

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Mistakes Will Happen

MicrophoneI said something stupid during a workshop on grief.

Moments later, my boss took her turn at the microphone to gently offer words that may have helped reduce any pain I’d caused.

Each year my hospice sponsors a workshop to help grieving folks prepare for the “most wonderful time of the year.” From Halloween to Super Bowl Sunday, from late October to early February, calendars are cluttered with parties at work, Christmas shopping, Hanukkah candle lighting, wrestling turkeys at Thanksgiving, debating the best team in football, whooping it up for New Years, and a host of other public and private traditions.

When grieving in the first year or two after a loved one’s death, some want to ignore most of the events. Indeed, more than a few wish they could “time travel” past the holidays. Read More →

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Cultural Clashes & Conversations

A Hmong shaman rattles ceremonial bells to help an unborn baby’s spirit.

A Hmong shaman rattles ceremonial bells to help an unborn baby’s spirit.

My patient, a forty-something Hmong woman, didn’t speak English.

While working for another hospice in the late 1990s, I was assigned to be her chaplain. I knew, before first meeting the family, I’d need to communicate with her through one of her teenaged daughters. I also knew, because one of the nurses told me, that she and her husband were animists. Animism, according to “The Split Horn,” a PBS film about Hmongs in America, is:

. . . the belief in the spirit world and in the interconnectedness of all living things. At the center of Hmong culture is the Txiv Neeb, the shaman (literally, “father/master of spirits”). According to Hmong cosmology, the human body is the host for a number of souls. The isolation and separation of one or more of these souls from the body can cause disease, depression and death.

A wife and mother, cancer was killing my patient. Just a few weeks before, she’d seemed “fine.” Read More →

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