What you want to hear. What you don’t want to hear… and when you want to be left alone. You might wonder why people say so many insensitive things, and why talking about grief is so hard.
The first reason is we don’t do grief (or any “intense” emotion) very well in this day and age, at least not most of us. We avoid hard emotions, we rush through them whenever we can, and so when grief does hit your life it can feel like you’re a non-swimmer being thrown into an ocean. So you’re already overwhelmed and just trying to keep your head above water as you deal with whatever is going on.
Secondly, you might – if you’re like most women – have trouble communicating your wants and needs in the first place, even in the best of circumstances.
Some of my clients and I have come up with a few communication prompts that I want to share with you, so that if you ever need a little help setting a boundary, or making a request, you have a good place to start.
1. I don’t know what I need, but thank you for reaching out. Check in again in another few months?
2. I know the family is worried about me. Just tell anyone who asks I’m going through waves of emotion and I want more space right now.
3. Right now, I don’t want anyone to fix or say anything. But if I change my mind I’ll let you know.
4. I’d rather not talk about this while I’m in work-mode, but I really appreciate your concern.
5. I know everyone wants to help, but advice isn’t what I need. Maybe everyone in the family would be willing to help me with something practical, like ______.
Making a Request
1. It’d be great if you asked me every so often how I’m doing. Even if I don’t have much of an answer, it feels good to be asked.
2. If you want to support me, here’s what would work right now _____.
3. For the next few weeks/months, can you give me a break from hearing about your pregnancy? I’m happy for you, but it’s just too hard for me right now.
4. Tell people I’ll accept help in the form of: food drop offs, errands, pedicure gift cards, walking the dog for a day or two, watching a movie with me when I don’t want to talk… that’s really what would support me most right now.
5. If you want to help, ask ______ how he is – maybe he/she needs something!
6. I don’t feel like answering emails/calls, but when you send me cards, believe me! I love reading them.
7. I want to create a ritual for the one year anniversary of this loss by ______. Can you participate by ______?
To Your Spouse/Partner – I’m going to need to write a whole other article on that one. :)
1. I know an “early miscarriage” may not seem like as big a deal to you, but this was truly devastating for me, so just know I’m in my own process about it.
2. I can’t articulate all the many emotions coming up at once. But having you just be present when I talk – even when it doesn’t make sense – that helps so much.
3. Grief is so non-linear. I’m back and forth, up and down. One day I might genuinely be in a good space, but on another, if it seems I’m dipping down, I probably am.
4. It’s touchy! You’re now pregnant and I’m not. How should we navigate that in our friendship?
Calling Someone Out - Nicely
1. I’m not ready to look for a silver lining yet. I’m sure I’ll get there, but right now I just want to hear how much this sucks.
2. If my crying makes you uncomfortable, do whatever you have to do... But it’s okay for me to cry.
3. If you ask me how I am, I need you to be able to deal with some intense emotions… otherwise I end up trying to take care of your discomfort!
4. I know we don’t usually talk about hard things in this family, but right now _____ feels like a huge elephant in the living room.
5. I know you probably have the best of intentions to be supportive, but that comment felt a little prickly for me.
6. Perhaps you were trying to spare my feelings, but by NOT inviting me to the baby shower, I felt really left out. Maybe in the future we can just talk about how to navigate these touchy things.
Assigning a Spokesperson
1. Can you do me a favor and tell everyone? If they ask questions about ______, fill them in. If they ask about anything else, tell them that’s private.
2. I certainly don’t mind you knowing what happened, but since I’m not in a space to share many details, ______ can fill you in.
3. ______ has offered to set up a meal-train for me, so if you are interested in that let them know. Otherwise, I’m kind of staying inward for a few months.
4. Tell everyone I’d love hearing their phone messages, but that I won’t be up for calling people back.
Changing A Boundary
1. I know I used to ask you all to give me space, but now I’m aware everyone’s walking on eggshells around me. So as of now, I think I’d prefer you just talk to me directly about your questions, or about how I’m doing.
2. Even though I didn’t want to talk about things before, now it’d be nice to change that a bit.
3. I know in general we kind of avoid talking about the fact that you have a baby and I don’t, but right now I’m feeling a little less tender and I’d really like to hear how motherhood is going for you.
Remember, your needs will change as your grief process unfolds. Check in with yourself to see if what felt good last month still does. And if something has shifted, make sure you give someone the cue.
Your family may still think, for example, you don’t want to talk about how your would-be due date is coming up based on the cues you normally give them. If you would like to make an exception to your own rule, make it!
Just let at least one person know, as soon as you’ve figured it out yourself! Sometimes, believe it or not, that's the hardest part.
If you haven't yet done so, sign up for the free gift bundle I have for you at www.aufertility.com