Two days ago, the internet was awash with the news of the death of entertainer D’Banj’s son. The little boy had drowned in a pool in the family’s Lagos residence.
Before anyone could digest that, news that Blessing Timidi Digha, a sexual reproductive health rights advocate had lost two of her three children in a fire incidence which gutted their home. It was said that fire service didn’t have water to put out the fire when they were called.
These incidences are beyond tragic and both families have experienced an unquantifiable loss. This is a parent’s worst fear and nightmare come to pass.
Understandably, both families are in mourning and struggling to come to terms with the tragedy. Condolence messages have been pouring in from concerned Nigerians, expressing their best wishes.
However, not all these messages were well thought out or even well-meaning. Some people made it all about themselves, others blamed the parents for being negligent and some even went to the extent of tagging these grieving parents on their posts, tweets and comments on what they could have done better to avoid the death of their children.
It is horrifying to watch. It is distasteful and vile.
In the wake of a tragedy, some Nigerians are unable to think of anyone but their own selves and have found a way to feed their egos while pretending to express concern and condolences.
On the assumption that some of these things were mere mistakes, here is a list of 5 things you should not say to a grieving person, especially one who has lost a child, under any circumstances.
“I know how you feel”
No, you don’t. And no, it doesn’t matter if you have lost a loved one before. You do not know how they are feeling. Each loss is different and different people have different meanings to people. Sure, you might have also lost YOUR child before, but you didn’t lose the bereaved person’s child.
Instead, you may say that you can imagine or can’t imagine what they must be feeling. But please, never say that you know how they feel, only they know.
“At least you can have another child. Or at least you have other children.”
This is an awful thing to say. It is very insensitive and it attempts to dismiss a grieving persons pain by offering them an alternative as if the child they lost is easily replaceable. Does the ability to have other children make their loss less of a loss? Also, who told you they can have other children? And even if they can, are they going to have the exact same child they are mourning? Allow grieving parents grieve. Do not dangle their other children or the possibility of having other children in front of them like that’s the solution to their loss.
“There is a reason for everything”
Oh yeah? Please tell what the reason is. What is the possible reason for a parent to bury a child they conceived, birthed and nurtured with their own hands? What is this reason that makes the loss understandable? None.
So don’t tell anyone that there is a reason they are mourning.
“It also happened to XYZ”
If you know other people who have experienced a loss like that, while another person is still grieving is not the time to bring it up. It is not the grief and suffering Olympics. It is not a competition and there is n need for the comparatives. Telling them how someone else had it worse will not make them feel better.
“You should have…”
No sentence that starts like this should even come out of your mouth. Do not imply that there is something, anything, that they could have done better. Do not imply that their loss is their own fault. Do not mention all the other precautions they could have taken and all the things they could have done better. Do not blame them for their loss. Do not imply that it is their fault. Do not attempt to guilt trip them.
When someone is grieving, offer your condolences and keep it moving. Do not make the moment about yourself. do not use a moment of trauma and grief to feel self-important about your own self. Allow people to grieve, and do not police their grief.
My heartfelt condolences go to both Blessing and D’Banj. May God comfort and heal them. May Heaven wrap its arms around their hurting families and give them succor.