As some of you might know, I’m currently going through a bit of a rough time. A friend, who has meant a great deal to me, for many years, is no longer in my life. It’s been a tumultuous fortnight, my emotions have been all over the place. But I’m getting there and I have a lot of hope that I’ll be okay in the end.
The grieving process
Although this close friend of mine didn’t pass away, I feel as though what I’m experiencing is quite similar to the grieving that someone goes through when they lose a loved one to death. I feel close to empty, as though I’ve lost a big part of myself. And it’s this sudden loss that has left me in disbelief as well.
Today, when I was reflecting back on my feelings, I started to think of my grandfather who passed away in 1999. I remember being a fragile and vulnerable 11 year old, who didn’t know much about Alzheimer’s disease, about life, let enough about death. I remember seeing my grandfather being fed his meals through a tube, being showered and changed by my mother, the confusion on his face when he couldn’t work out which grandchild I was.
But I also remember being told to “get over it”. To stop crying about my grandfather. To stop caring that he was sick. To “get over it” when he eventually passed away. To stop being so sad and move on.
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And it hurt me. A lot. It hurt that I was forced to push my feelings aside, because others were struggling to deal with their own. It hurt because I wanted to grieve for my grandfather. I wanted to cry because it made me sad to see someone I loved so much, be in so much pain then suddenly leave. I knew he was in a better place now, but it didn’t mean that his passing didn’t make me feel sad. I needed to grieve in my own time, on my own terms.
No problem is trivial
I once wrote about a friend of mine who would always come to me for advice. I was her confidante. She felt that I empathised with her easily, was compassionate, and that she could trust me. Above all else, she said that I never made her feel that her problems didn’t matter.
And that’s the thing, we all go through many different types of problems at different stages of our lives. They may be personal or professional – they may be related to friendships, relationships, our career, our self-esteem, even money. But what do all our problems have in common?
They matter to us.
Don’t tell someone to “get over it”
It’s true that we should be grateful for what we have and look at the bigger picture. But looking at the bigger picture does not mean we have to dismiss our feelings completely.
A relationship break-up, in theory, may not hurt as much as the death of a child, but that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to feel saddened by both. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a right to feel upset about both. It doesn’t mean that we should just “get over it”.
Too often people are told to “harden up”, to “stop being so sensitive”, to “get over it”. But I think what people need more than anything is a non-judgemental shoulder to cry on. Everyone wants to feel that their feelings matter; that they are being understood.
And having hit rock bottom only just seven years ago, I also know how to get others out from there. I think we can all play our part in helping to prevent suicide.
So, next time your friend tells you about their problems, be that non-judgemental shoulder for them. Listen with compassion. Respond with empathy.
You don’t need to provide the right answer, just the right response.
Please don’t tell people to “get over it”. Be there and help them get through it instead.