Navigating other peoples’ responses to the loss of a loved one

Nicole Collaço

The support networks you surround yourself with are so important, especially when you’re grieving. Just as we all have different ‘love languages’, I believe we also have different ‘support languages.’ People show their support in different ways. I found that after my mum passed away, there were people in my life who did their best to create space for me to talk, listened to me wholeheartedly, and checked in with me often. I also encountered people who chose to avoid or appeared to dismiss my personal loss and made inappropriate comments. Although I have some amazing support networks, I still struggled to navigate the insensitive comments people made in relation to my grief. I appreciate that we’re all human and I recognize that a lot of people may feel really out of their depth and don’t know what to say, so end up saying something insensitive because they’re nervous or uncomfortable. However, I wanted to share some of the ways which helped me navigate these experiences in a way that was best for me:

  • Creating boundaries

I gave myself space from those who made upsetting comments relating to my grief and/or loss.

  • Being assertive

When somebody said something insensitive, I told that person how it made me feel. People need to learn what is okay and what is not okay to say, because often they don’t realise.

  • Surrounding myself with ‘happy hearts’

‘Happy hearts’ refer to the people in my life that are willing to listen wholeheartedly and bring happiness to my life. Being around these ‘happy hearts’ were key in bringing me back to a more positive space.

  • Focusing on the people that do support me

I sometimes found I got caught up and upset about the people that weren’t supporting me rather than focusing on the amazing people in my life who do.

  • Being gentle and kind to myself

I often have to remind myself that this is my journey, and that grief is an ongoing process. I am also consciously aware of changing my self-talk whenever I am being too hard on myself for the way I feel.

The steps I took to navigate other peoples’ insensitive comments were not always easy, however it was these steps that had helped me create the space I needed to heal. If you find yourself struggling to navigate other peoples’ responses to your loss, please recognize the importance of your own wellbeing and enforce boundaries in whatever way you need too. Remember to look after yourself, not just for your own sake, but also for the people who are grieving with you and that you may need to support at times too.

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