Coping with the loss of a loved one is an excruciating experience that can leave us shattered, broken and deeply wounded.
The feelings induced by grief can be interchangeable and may oscillate at a moment’s notice, often against our will.
One minute we may be plunged into the depths of emotional despair; the next, along come those golden sprinkles of hope where a future without our loved one, for the briefest of moments, may not seem so terrifying and incomprehensible.
Until the next grief wave arrives, there’s no telling what feelings and emotions may loom beneath the unpredictable tide. Anger, maybe? Intense sorrow? Confusion?
Some mourners may struggle to feel anything on the surface of things and wonder why their feelings have suddenly packed up and left the building while everyone else around them seems inconsolable.
Anything and everything is expected after someone close passes away.
Anger, guilt, relief, sorrow, numbness, fear – all these feelings are natural responses to forever losing someone you love. After all, an incomprehensible thing has just happened, and any feelings and emotions you experience are your brain’s way of trying to make sense of this new and surreal reality.
Reaching out for help and support
This article explores grief, its effects and the kinds of people to avoid when grieving, particularly in the early days when grief feels the most unrelenting and raw.
If you’re struggling to deal with losing a loved one, you do not need to suffer in silence.
Speaking to a trusted friend or grief specialist can help you process your grief and discuss your feelings openly in a compassionate, non-judgmental space.
At Tikvah Lake Recovery, we understand how isolating and lonely grief can be.
If you would like help processing your grief, we provide various talk therapy programs that can help support you through this difficult time. Contact a friendly specialist at Tikvah Lake Recovery who can help.
Protecting your energy and mental well-being
It’s no secret just how ill-prepared society is when handling grief, including our own losses and those around us.
This unpreparedness often means that mourners face various challenges as they navigate life’s unpredictable path after losing a loved one.
Once a loved one dies, it can feel like you have been catapulted into platitude central, where well-meaning friends, family and colleagues often say the wrong thing, avoid bringing up your lost loved one to avoid causing you further pain, or worse, try to ‘blue-sky’ you out of your grief.
As well-intentioned as they might be, these responses are not always helpful and may make you want to isolate yourself further to avoid additional pain and suffering.
Understandably, the prospect of reveling in eternal solitude can seem attractive to many grievers, as they may find interacting with others too exhausting and difficult, particularly at the beginning.
However, as much as having the time alone to process your grief can be immensely cathartic and helpful, reconnecting with the outside world after a period of solitude is essential to your overall health and well-being.
But that doesn’t mean all this will come easy.
After all, having to deal with endless platitudes and phrases like, “At least your loved one had a long life,” or “At least they are no longer suffering,” and the most common, “They wouldn’t want you to be so upset,” can be monumentally triggering not to mention unhelpful.
Again, as upsetting as these phrases can be, people often mean well, and many don’t know what to say or do when supporting grieving loved ones.
Fortunately, there are some things that grievers can do to take care of themselves when interacting with others, most of which begin with figuring out your boundaries and what you feel you can and can’t manage.
To conserve your energy and protect your mental and emotional well-being, you may find it helpful to avoid certain kinds of people as you process your grief and attempt to make sense of this strange new world without your loved one in it.
It may be advisable for you to avoid certain people until you feel strong enough to interact with them again, particularly in the early days of grief.
Although avoiding those who trigger you can be difficult, depending on who they are, being aware of your boundaries and triggers can be beneficial and may make processing your grief easier.
So, is there a ‘type’ of person we should avoid when grieving?
Let’s explore this question further.
The four kinds of people to avoid when you’re grieving
People say and do all kinds of things when trying to support their loved ones through the tricky, murky waters of grief.
Since grief tends to magnify the significance of pretty much everything, small gestures like a warm hug or a few thoughtful words can mean the world to a newly bereaved person.
On the other hand, an untimely phrase or thoughtless platitude can sting like a scorpion, invoking all kinds of unpleasant feelings and reactions that you may find confusing, scary, or difficult to control.
To protect your mental health and conserve your (limited) energy, you may find it helpful to avoid the following people, especially in the early days after the death of a loved one.
1. The person who always starts a sentence with the words ‘At least…’
You can see the words forming at the corners of their mouths as you feel your stomach sinking.
However, a part of you silently hopes the person sitting opposite you won’t say it, that you will somehow be spared from the things intended to make you feel better.
After all, words only have so much power, but they still pack a strong enough punch when your best friend, partner, colleague or family member blurts out those two words you’ve come to detest since your loved one passed away,“at least… “.
“At least they had a long life.”
“At least they were looked after in the best hospital.”
“At least they’re in a better place; their suffering is over.”
“At least you got to say goodbye.”
These sentences are meant to make the bereaved feel better. However, the problem is they speak to the mind rather than to the heart.
Of course, it’s wonderful that your loved one had a long, meaningful life, that the hospital took excellent care of them in their last moments, that they are no longer suffering, and that you got to say your goodbyes.
However, as much as these statements might be true, someone pointing them out doesn’t remove the fact that it feels like someone has just ripped your heart out of your chest and stomped all over it, only to put it back in barely functioning.
Depending on the nature of your relationship with the person, you may decide to tell them that although you understand how good their intentions are, you find these statements extremely hurtful and unhelpful.
However, all this will depend on your relationship with the person and how comfortable you are expressing your feelings about your loss.
It might be easier, particularly in the early days of grief, to avoid interacting with people that trigger any additional pain or anguish altogether until you feel ready to be around them again.
2. The person who expects you to bounce back quickly
Each person has a unique way of grieving, but one thing remains; there is no right or wrong way.
Grief can be a great revealer; it can show us the people who are meant to be in our lives and those that aren’t.
However, amid grief, it can be challenging to spot potential red flags in people, particularly when all we want to do is grab onto those we hold dear. But knowing who to keep around and who to let go of can ultimately protect us from further pain.
Those who expect you to bounce back or put a timeline on your grief may not be the best people to have around.
Grief is a lifelong journey of continuous processing and acceptance, and it doesn’t just end because those around us think it should.
If you notice the following red flags in your interactions with others while you’re grieving, it may be time to take a break or set healthy boundaries with the people in your life.
- Not feeling safe enough to express your feelings of loss – you may fear losing those close to you or worry that your vulnerability may scare them away when discussing your loss. However, when you express these fears, instead of receiving compassion and understanding, you are met with disdain or harsh judgment.
- Feeling judged by others – if a friend or family member constantly comments on how much you’ve changed since your loved one passed away or says things like, “But it’s been three years since they died. Aren’t you feeling just a bit better by now?” it may be a sign for you to create some distance between you and this person, at least until you’ve had the time to process your loss and figure out the best course of action.
- Noticing that the person you’re opening up to changes the subject – when a close friend or relative changes the subject every time you bring up your loved one, it can feel immensely dismissive and painful. However, when this happens, it may be a sign that this person, as much as you’d like to share your feelings about the loss with them, is unable or unwilling to participate in these conversations. This can be extremely difficult to come to terms with initially, but once you do, you’ll figure out the kinds of people who can better support you in your grief.
3. The person who dishes out endless platitudes
It’s nice to have a positive person around when times are tough.
However, there is a time and place for the person who constantly dishes out endless platitudes.
It’s perfectly healthy and normal to experience a full range of emotions when someone close to you dies – these feelings can change like the wind and hit you when you least expect it.
For example, it’s common for grievers to experience despair, hope, anger, and relief all in a short period.
However, having someone tell you, “It seems your loved one didn’t suffer too much,” or “They are with God now,” may be comforting to some people but can be extremely upsetting for others.
That said, it might be helpful for you to avoid being around people who try to put a positive spin on your loss until you feel strong enough to face them again.
Remember, your job is to protect your mental and physical energy and well-being, not tend to other people’s needs, views or ways of seeing things.
So, look for people who will actively listen and be an agency of care rather than attempting to fix you, cheer you up, or find a solution.
4. The person who describes the water while you’re drowning
We’ve all heard that grief comes in waves. And when we feel those waves crashing around us, it doesn’t help when the person next to us begins to describe the water.
For instance, sentences like “It must feel like everything is coming at you all at once,” or “I bet it feels like a dagger to the heart,” may be okay for some people but downright maddening and upsetting to others.
Having someone describe how you feel – or try to compare your loss to one they’ve experienced themselves – particularly when you’re having a bad moment, day, or week, often doesn’t help.
Again, people usually mean well, but you must take care of yourself and set healthy boundaries around those you think may not be supportive or who will make things more challenging for you as you come to terms with your loss.
Things you can do to help yourself while grieving
As well as avoiding or minimizing contact with those who may (often unintentionally) approach their support in the wrong way, there are other things you can do to take care of yourself during this difficult season, including the following:
- Participate in familiar activities or hobbies – when you feel ready and up to it, you may find engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoyed before your loss helpful. This may include going for a walk in nature, reading or knitting. Doing something familiar and enjoyable can release feel-good chemicals, making you feel more positive and energized.
- Keep a journal – writing down your feelings can be useful and help you make sense of your emotions as you work through your grief.
- Exercise and eat healthy where possible – it can help to continue with familiar patterns and routines when processing your grief; for instance, if you attended the gym before your loss, you might find it helpful to re-engage with that routine. In addition, cultivating healthy eating and sleep patterns can help you function better, helping you to manage unpleasant feelings and emotions when they arise.
- Seek professional help and support – speaking to a professional about your loss can help you process and unpack your grief, allowing you to cope better. Various therapies can help you through your loss, including talk therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, traumatic grief therapy, and complicated grief therapy. It might help to speak to your local GP or mental health services for advice on referrals and support.
How Tikvah Lake Recovery can help
We provide personalized mental health and addiction treatment to clients in Florida and surrounding regions.
Tikvah Lake Recovery is an extremely personalized treatment center for those who seek the ultimate treatment, privacy and luxurious surroundings.
We understand that grief can be a profoundly lonely and isolating experience; therefore, we offer individualized therapies and treatments that are client-centric, including mental health treatment, holistic wellness programs and comprehensive aftercare and support.
Located in Florida, our stunning grounds provide the perfect foundation for processing and unpacking your grief in spacious, tranquil surroundings.
We offer the highest level of care from our experienced clinical and medical staff, stunning accommodations, and private rehabilitation facilities.
You couldn’t be in better hands!
If you’re struggling to deal with losing a loved one and need professional guidance and support, please contact a member of our friendly team today.
We are here to lend a listening ear.
1. What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving, Psychology Today, Edy Nathan, June 10, 2020
2. 11 top tips on how to practice self-care whilst grieving, Marie Curie, Jane Murray, August 26, 2021