What not to say during the holidays!

Even with all the holiday cheer, the holidays can be rough.

As we approach the end of the year, it is normal to reflect on all that has happened, good and bad. While there is so much to be grateful for, 2017 has been devastating for many. From mass shootings, to fires and floods, to loss of loved ones and divorces, it seems like tragedy is inescapable.

Of course we can always “count our blessings,” and be “grateful for our health” (if we have it), AND yet, it is important to remember that…

 Silver linings don’t help
Even when my mom died suddenly in 2008, I was the first person to tell you the 10 reasons why it was okay. Here were a few, “At least she was doing something she loved when she died; At least she was happy; At least she didn’t suffer; At least she spoke to my dad, brother and grandmother before she was killed; At least she knew I loved her.”

I​​​​​​​f you notice the one thing that all of these justifications has in common is the word at least.  Throughout my work as a Grief Recovery Specialist, the problem I have discovered with the word at least and all of these positive statements is that they are intellectually true, but emotionally they don’t make any sense.  The truth is that my mom’s death was the absolute worst thing that ever happened in my entire life, and by justifying why it was fine, I was diminishing my own feelings.

​​​​​​​When we say the word at least we are taking away from the importance of what actually happened.  When someone goes through a breakup, you might hear someone say, “At least you weren’t married.”  Does that really make the breakup any easier? What about a divorce that happens pre-children? “At least you didn’t have any kids together.”  At the Grief Recovery Institute we talk about the loss of hopes, dreams and expectations and those feelings are just as real as any other loss.

This holiday season (and from here forward), I hope you will set the intention to let go of the at least. As much as we are trying to help by offering these positive statements or silver linings to hard situations, they aren’t helpful. The truth is that sometimes we feel bad, and we don’t need to fix it.

​​​​​​​So what should we do instead?

Acknowledge, validate and listen.
​​​​​​Instead of saying, “at least they are in a better place” we can say “I can’t imagine how that has been for you.” My challenge to you is to acknowledge and accept other people’s feelings and leave the at least out of it.

Feelings are normal and natural… in fact, they are biological. While we would all love to be happy all the time, that isn’t normal either. We don’t need to fix others or ourselves when we are feeling down. We have to be present to the feelings, recognize them as normal, not beat ourselves up… and guess what? They usually pass more easily. 

If you want some more guidance or support for navigating this time of year with more ease and less burnout, check out my new book: The Compassion Code: How to say the right thing when the wrong thing happens .  

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