“I can understand their grief, BUT!!!..”……….is a way to say, I don’t want to hear about your loss.


This phrase makes my blood boil.

And I heard it numerous times on February 29th on the A.M. news shows by Republicans who loved #45’s speech on February 28th 2017.

One Republican leader said: “I can understand their grief” when they were  talking about the family of   slain Navy Seal, William “Ryan” Owens in the recent raid on Yemen.

This leader went on to say: “there was an objective and they went after that; there was collateral damage. This is the cost associated with these raids. Regarding the father of Ryan, that is simply the cost”, and then this man went into his own story about how a family member lost someone in war.

Another Republican said a similar thing:  “These are the costs of this, and it is about leadership and moving forward”.

Then the Piece de la Resistance from Sean Spicer yesterday:   “These people know the costs and are willing to do this for their country.”

The reasons these statements make my blood boil:

  1. These statements completely invalidate the deep grief of the people who have lost a loved one.
  2. The intellectual statements that these people are making are a way to avoid their own feelings of loss and grief.


The statements are intellectual ways of avoiding grief and therefore sadness, fear and anger.  Further, there is no way that one person can understand another’s grief. According to the Grief Recovery Institute in California where I am certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist, Grief is defined as the mass of human emotions that result after one or more of the 40 types of losses we humans will experience in our lifetime.

As a Grief Recovery Specialist, I have learned that as I said, it is impossible to really know how another is feeling after any loss or any experience. Why?………because we are all different, we have all experienced life in different ways and it takes compassion and empathy to even come close to really understanding how someone feels after a loss or to understand how they  are experiencing the loss. Further, if one has not done their own grief work, they do not have the capacity or ability to really want to ask how someone else is feeling after a loss, because the other person’s expression of grief will stimulate their own feelings of grief which they have sheltered away in their own shadow.

The way to understand someone’s feelings after a loss is to ask, and then sorry to be blunt, but after we ask, we need to close our mouth and open our eyes and heart and listen, without talking and in most cases, we do not need to ask questions. We simply need to be there with our heart, soul, mind and body.

So, the next time, someone comes to you and tells you about a loss, don’t say: “I understand how you feel.”

Instead,   Say,” I am here with you, you are not alone in this, tell me how this is for you.”