13 Nov

Letterbalm Mourning WreathDear LetterBalm: Two months ago, my 50-year-old mother died of a pernicious, fast-moving form of cancer. She was gone only six weeks after the initial diagnosis. Needless to say, the family is devastated. Mom was a good woman, well-loved by her grieving husband and children. Now I seem to attract people who want to tell me all about their losses and their grief. Even friends who have known me for years and should understand that I need time to heal, are unburdening themselves (“I’m so sorry, but wait until you hear what happened to my sister-in-law…”). I hear stories about sick children, relatives with Alzheimer’s, people they know who have suffered fatal accidents. This gets me very depressed. I don’t want to get angry, but how can I discourage them?

–Still in Mourning

Ms. L.B. offers sincere condolences on your great loss. Look at this as a compliment to your good heart and ability for compassion. People feel comfortable talking to you about loss at the merest hint of your own. This doesn’t excuse their thoughtlessness. You can be gentle but firm, saying some form of this:

I’m so sorry to hear of your loss/friend’s illness/medical difficulty. It must give you great pain. I’m still grieving for the loss of my mom just weeks ago, which, as you know, happened so quickly. So, forgive me when I say that this is not a good time for me to really listen. I know I can count on your understanding when I say I share your sorrow, but I’d rather not talk about any of this now.


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