Beliefnet
Happy Haven with Brandi-Ann Uyemura

{flickr photo}

Sometimes in trying to deal with your pain, loved ones say things that dig deeper into your wound instead of heal it. It may feel like a personal attack, but they are not trying to hurt you. Often people feel uncomfortable and don’t know how to react so they say things like this instead:

1. You look fine.

2. I know someone who’s going through what you’re going through and they got over it ____ (faster, easier, with less complaining, etc.).

3. All you do is talk about yourself. Maybe you should be less selfish and self-absorbed.

4. I wish I had what you have so I could use everything as an excuse.

5. You just need to _____ (exercise, laugh, smile, etc.) more.

6. ______ is a lot worse off than you.

7. You’re too sensitive. You need to toughen up.

8. There are people less fortunate than you. Maybe you should focus on that.

9. I hope you get over it sooner rather than later.

10. You worry too much.

At one time in your life, you may have heard this from someone you love in response to your depression, anxiety, illness or grief. Instead of getting the compassion and empathy you needed, you felt misunderstood. And that hurts. More than anything all you wanted was to be validated, heard, accepted and loved for feeling what you feel instead of being rejected and judged for it.

While there is no balm to prevent the pain of insensitive comments from others, there is a way to get beyond it. Because we cannot avoid the onslaught of negativity that often comes as a surprise to those who are suffering, the only way to cope is to learn ways to deal with it.

Let Go and Detach

Realize that no matter how personal and attacking their comments seem, they are often the result of misunderstanding and discomfort. Perhaps your loved ones are not in touch with their own feelings and that makes them uncomfortable listening to other people’s pain. Remembering this the next time aunt Sheila decides to tell you to “tough up,” may help prevent additional grief from hearing her response.

Don’t Continue to Expect the Impossible

Yes, your uncle Gary may not know how to comfort you when you’re down. Because of this, don’t go crying to him when you’re depressed. Gather around these people instead.

See It As an Opportunity to Practice Compassion

Your mom might fail to understand your pain, but judging her to be cold and cruel is in fact returning the un-welcomed favor. Use this as an opportunity to practice more compassion for the un-compassionate and in doing so you may even develop more compassion for yourself. How? Perhaps you’ll realize that none of us are perfect. That sometimes you judge your cousin’s moodiness or your friend’s dramatic outbursts. Heck you know you judge your relative’s inability to be sympathetic. In understanding that everyone has their own story and deal with difficulty in different ways, you will find a lesson in your pain. The truth is that when we learn to forgive others for their human mistakes, we learn how to forgive ourselves.

Life isn’t easy. People don’t read handbooks on how to be kind and cope well with other people’s problems (unless they are therapists). They are too busy trying to figure out their own. Know this and tread carefully. Surround yourself with people who are capable of being there for you and take the insensitive words from others lightly. We can give others the power to make us crumble or we can triumph in our own self-compassion. Remember you can call it ignorance or insensitivity, just don’t call it your truth.