“At least he died doing what he loved…..”
After David died well-meaning folks offered these words as comfort. I was not comforted. I'd stopped listening after “At least he died.”
My brother was dead. There was no softening the blow with platitudes about the manner in which he was taken from us.
Those words still irk me now. I picked up the newspaper at the airport this morning, bright blonde seventeen year old Laetitia Brouwer beamed from the front page. She died after being bitten by a shark while surfing in WA. The front page declares “She died doing what she LOVED.”
I hope this is some consolation to her family. Anything that brings comfort after the death of a family member is a blessing. There’s so little to hold onto when your world is suddenly knocked from its axis.
Everyone grieves differently. What’s comforting to someone is abhorrent to another. What I found upsetting might well have been solace to someone else.
That said, when teaching my daughters about grieving, I will teach them to avoid all sentences that begin with “At least he died…”
Not “At least he died ... quickly”
Not “At least she died ... at home”
Not “At least he died ... peacefully”
Not “At least she died ... in her sleep”
I’ll teach them to ask themselves:
“is there a risk that what I’m about to utter diminishes my friend’s loss?”
“is there any chance what I’m about to say is really about making me feel more comfortable about the situation?”
Then instead, simply say “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Seana Smith says
Ah yes, it's so hard to say the right thing. I love ocean swimming and sometimes if I wonder whether I'd be happier to die doing that - something I love. Maybe I would be in the end, when I'm old and it's getting to my time to leave the earth. But the death of a young person is always devastating and there's no need to try to salve the wound.