Recently, I’ve come across a very thought-provoking article written by one of my favorite columnists, Oliver Burkeman, for The Guardian. With his challenging irony and sarcasm, the author argues the pointlessness of the “comforting” commands such as “cheer up”, “calm down” that you and I often use to help a depressed friend.
“Is there anything more annoying than being told to cheer up when you’re feeling down?…if you could cheer up by choice, you’d already have done so”. Couldn’t be said better- spot on!
That’s what I’ve been experiencing and mulling over lately which resulted in drafting my own top 8 list of the taboo phrases that you shouldn’t catch yourself telling to a grieving person (or even the ones who’re just slightly depressed). Not because you should be tough. With your best intentions considered, these “soothing” phrases are merely pointless (remember a single time you instantly soared with happiness after your best friend’s ”cheer up” command. That never happened, right?).
So, here you go. Remember and immediately forget these phrases when you’re dealing with a suffering heart.
“Pull yourself together” (=”calm down”). Yes, she will calm down. But after she’s cried herself into sleep (I’m not aware of the man’s actions. Maybe beating the punching bag to the thrash rock music? :).
“Look on the bright side”. She/he won’t see any colors on the “side”. They won’t even see the “side”.
“Life is wonderful”. Only to others, not him/her. Now everything sucks.
“Take it easy”. Do you want her/him to get furious in addition to being deeply sorrowful?
“You’re not the first and last person to have gone through this”. This one is my favorite. Yes, she/he’s mature enough to realize that “everything shall pass”, and repetition in this case is the mother of not learning but even more grieving.
What could you do instead? Just listen compassionately and even validate his/her sorrow. From my experience, that helps overcome the blues faster. Only then, when the critical period is passed can you make him/her dress up and have a nice evening together over a glass of wine. That’s my “therapy” (another effective one being the bibliotherapy) against “the cheer up” treatment 🙂
What are your observations? Do you have your own list? Please, contribute to the post with your comments 🙂