with Dr. Jason Troyer

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Nonsense People Say: "You Shouldn't Be Sad"

Transcript of the Video

Has anyone ever said something like this to you after the death of a love one? “You shouldn’t be sad.” Or even worse, did they say, “You should be rejoicing”. Or perhaps something like, “we should all be happy and thankful that she’s in a better place.”

Perhaps you heard it from a friend or family member, a minister or priest or rabbi – perhaps a co-worker. OK first, I understand that people who say this are trying to be supportive. They are trying to ease your grief by giving you something to be happy about. But they shouldn’t do it. Please, please never say this to a grieving person. Let me explain why.

First, people can, and often do – have more than one emotion at the same time. Which means we can be thankful that our loved one is in a better place; and yet also be sad that they have died. Or in other words, just because we’re crying doesn’t mean that we’re not thankful that they are no longer in pain. It seems like some well-meaning people want our thankfulness to be the most prominent emotion – but they don’t get to decide that.

Second, other people don’t have the right to tell you how you should respond to life. Other people just don’t get to do that. Just because our sadness and grief might make others uncomfortable, they don’t get to tell us to stop being sad. They may hope that we’ll be happier or want us to not cry in front of them, but our emotions are our emotions. Our reaction is our reaction. Other people don’t get a vote on our emotions and reactions. It’s that simple.

Third, sadness and grief and many other reactions are a natural response to loss. When others try to convince us to feel something else, they’re trying to short-circuit our grief. And grief and loss are some of the RARE situations in life where people try to convince us not to feel what we’re feeling. I’ve never heard of someone telling parents of a newborn. “ok, ok, that’s enough happiness. Just to remind you, babies take a lot of work and so you should start worrying about protecting the baby, and lack of sleep, and starting a college fund. So start worrying more.” Losing a loved one is not like having a bad hair day or the Monday morning blahs – grief isn’t something we snap out of because we see an inspirational poster on the wall or something funny on Facebook.

Now if you’re someone who has said this to a grieving person – please think carefully in the future. And you might want to look at my video on the Top 5 things not to say to a grieving person.  I know you are trying to help – I get that. But please come up with something else to say. You might consider watching my video on what you SHOULD say to a grieving person.

And if you are a grieving person who has been told that you shouldn’t be sad, I hope you feel more confident knowing that you have a right to grieve. You might say to yourself or even to a well-meaning person something simple like, “I’m allowed to feel sad.” You can repeat that over and over to yourself if you need it and you can repeat it to someone else who is trying to short-circuit your grief. “I’m allowed to feel sad.” You have that right.

In the comments, I hope you’ll share an example of how someone tried to cheer you up in an unhelpful way so that others can learn what not to do. And please share this if you think someone would find it helpful.

Jason TroyerComment