Is there anyone who truly likes initiating hard conversations? The frenetic energy running around your body before you say your first words making you feel jittery and uncomfortable. Trying to talk yourself out of even having the conversation because “it’s not really that bad, is it? I can deal, right?”
No? Just me?
Sometimes along our grief journey there are times when an uncomfortable conversation my need to be had. Whether it’s on the part of the Grief Warrior or even on the part of a support person. Once, my sister had to sit me down about 8 months after Caleb died to tell me that everyone in my life was afraid of saying anything to me for fear of upsetting me. “They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t” she told me.
She wasn’t wrong. I was angry and people who said the wrong thing incurred my wrath and people who said nothing were no longer welcome in my life.
Regardless, my sister had to have a hard conversation with me and it was not pleasant for either of us.
I, too, have had to have hard conversations with people in my life regarding grief and it causes this recovering people pleaser oodles of anxiety. Today, we’re going to look at a few ways I’ve found to have hard conversations about grief from the Grief Warrior perspective.
- Prepare yourself: I’m a words person, so for me I have to write everything out and practice saying what I want to say. It helps me to be clearer and to work through my thoughts if I write it all out to ensure I make all of my major points. I also tend to ramble when I’m going off the cuff so preparing by writing helps me be more concise and reign in the ramble.
- You won’t always get it right: As much as I prepare, I’m an emotionally reactive person so sometimes my fuse gets lit and a tangent occurs. Sometimes the conversation will take a hard left turn when I expected it to go smoothly in the HOV lane and I have to give myself grace when that happens. I never set out to intentionally hurt someone or use my gift of words as a weapon. Alas, that does occur at times and so I’ve continued to try to work on stopping mid way through and re-group. This also doesn’t always occur so I’ve become adept at forgiving myself for my screw ups and asking for forgiveness where I need to from others as well. Grief is emotional and you won’t always get it right so give yourself some grace, let yourself up off the mat, and try again.
- They won’t always get it right: Remember that conversation my sister had with me? It was her way of telling me that I need to give other people grace as well because we are all working without a net. No two grief journeys are the same and who you were prior to loss is not necessarily who you are now. Turns out the new me does anger really well – something I didn’t do much of previously. When people would say the wrong thing, such as a cliché or offer advice when they had never gone through what I was facing themselves, I shut them down angrily, and quickly. Worse yet were the folks who said nothing at all and pretended nothing had happened. My world had been destroyed yet they wanted to ask me about the weather in Colorado or how my family was with no mention of Caleb. I was incensed. My dear friend and fellow Grief Warrior, Jianna, always reminds me that people typically don’t say things out of malice – they just simply don’t know what to say, want to say something, and can sometimes reach for unhelpful or insensitive comments. She’s a better person than I so I try to hold onto this thought as I secretly stew. Knowing that even your closest people may not always get it right in advance prepares you to give grace where it’s needed. Now, if it IS said in malice then screw them.
- Use specific examples: My husband and I went to pre-marital counseling and one of the things they told us that still rings true today is to avoid using “always” and “never” statements. “You NEVER see things my way” or “You ALWAYS lose your shit because I forget something little” These statements are rarely true and unhelpful because they aren’t specific. When speaking with someone who has hurt you or caused your grief to become triggered, it’s helpful to have specific examples to point to where the harm occurred. I had a hard conversation with my sister about her ability to support other grief warriors when they’ve lost a baby due to miscarriage, however she (at the time) rarely if ever spoke of my first three angel babes. It bothered me that she could see how important it was to support families who had lost a baby, no matter the gestation, through our work for TBSP, but she wasn’t able to provide me that same type of support even years later. Because I used specific examples, she was able to see where the hurt she had inadvertently caused lie and could do better in the future.
- Use “Time Out” if necessary: Until I began dating my husband I had no idea that time out was used for anything other than children who disobeyed. As someone who struggled to learn lessons the first, third or eleventh time as a kid, I was an EXPERT LEVEL time outer. The first argument I had with my husband in the beginning of our relationship, he called a time out because things had gotten heated. “I don’t want to say something I’m going to regret,” he told me after asking for a 15 minute time out. I was baffled. I was on a roll in my argument and his abrupt request shook me off my hinges. Begrudgingly, I’ll admit it helped immensely and became something I’ve used in various heated conversations with many different relationships over the years. Grief is EMOTIONAL. Grief is tied to loss and tied to love – highly emotional subjects. Things in this arena are fraught with emotional minefields and can escalate quickly. Using a time out and taking a break for a few minutes to regroup and collect yourself can help relationships survive the overwhelming waves of grief.
Having hard conversations sucks. They aren’t an enjoyable aspect of adulthood but having them is necessary; cultivating the skills to do so will help you communicate more effectively throughout your grief journey.