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The Fundamental Problem of Telling the Bereaved to “Get Over It”


Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Mar 15, 2017

The Fundamental Problem of Telling the Bereaved to “Get Over It”

It's necessary to preface this by saying that, thankfully, the majority of people will never make such a dismissive, cruel remark to someone who is grieving. That being said, there are individuals who say this. Some of them are tone deaf, some are thoughtless, and others just lack empathy. In the scheme of things, however, those are just excuses. There is no reason you should ever tell a bereaved person to “just get over” anything. Before you disagree and defend these actions, let us explain the fundamental problem of telling the bereaved to “get over it,” to help you understand why this phrase should be avoided at all costs, in all situations.

It's Not Up to You

This is the most fundamental premise. You don't really need to know anything other than this. It is not your place to tell anyone to get over anything, especially someone who just lost a loved one. Your opinions do not matter in this instance, and that's something you just have to deal with and accept. The bereaved is not interested in hearing why you think s/he should stop feeling depressed, sad, or lost. You are not the arbiter of grief. You do not define it. You do not put time limits on it. This is not your place. You are out of your lane, and it's best to recognize that rather than getting defensive and doubling down on your statement.

Grief Is Person

Every person on this earth grieves differently. Some people cry, others scream, and still others isolate. There are healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with grief. Even if the individual you're trying to “comfort” is expressing her or his grief in an unhealthy way, “get over it” is still not the correct response. Adjust your approach. If you're trying to be helpful and show concern with a comment like this, then you should instead vocalize what's worrying you. That's far less offensive.

You Don't Control Anyone Else

At its heart, a demand such as “get over it” is an attempt to control someone else. You can't do that. Your feelings aren't relevant here. They do not matter, point blank. Trying to control someone else's grief is somewhat abusive and certainly dismissive. If you're uncomfortable because a person is going through a bereavement, take yourself out of the equation. Don't attempt to change the narrative or control the situation.

Grief makes people react in strange ways. You might not intend to cause harm or be cruel by saying something like this, but it does cause damage, and it is cruel. Do better. Treat people who are grieving the way you want to be treated when you need comfort.