Stop trying to make me feel better

This post might turn out to be a little ranty, as it is a topic that is weighing on my mind lately, and involves some of the ways I’ve been treated over the past year.

First of all, I just want to say, in general to everyone – when you see someone sad, stop trying to make them feel better. Just seriously, cut that out. It’s not helpful.

Ok, I should be more specific. There are definitely ways to comfort a sad person that are very helpful and I do strongly support those things. It should, however, be noted that those things all involve accepting the person’s feelings and sharing them, not trying to change the person’s feelings.

Don’t try to change my feelings. Seriously.

So earlier this year I was in the hospital and had to stay overnight there. Eventually, once Nee left and it was nighttime and just me in my bed that I wasn’t allowed to leave even to pee, I started crying. A lot. It was overwhelming, it was frustrating, I felt quite unwell, and I guess I just needed to cry. At some point a nurse popped her head in to check on me (or she noticed my vitals were off, since I was wearing a bunch of monitors at the time) and saw that I was crying. She immediately came in and said:

“Don’t feel sad! It’s not worth it!”

Now, this nurse was a sweet lady. She took time out of her night shift to sit with me while I blubbered, and I did and still do appreciate that.

Unfortunately she also kept saying things like “don’t cry!” and “don’t feel sad!” and “it’s not worth it!” and I REALLY wanted her to stop. I WAS crying, I DID feel sad, and “worth it” wasn’t really a factor at the time. Yeah, her intentions were good – she wanted me to feel better – but in the process all she was actually doing was invalidating my emotions.

Because in the end, when you do that, that’s what you are doing. However good your intentions are, and I’m sure they are very good indeed, invalidating another person’s sadness is not helpful. Don’t do that.

Wanna know another really bad but also really common one? “You shouldn’t feel that way.”

NEVER SAY THAT.

What a person “should” feel is irrelevant, and telling them that their emotions are incorrect somehow won’t suddenly make them have the “correct” emotions, whatever they are. All that sentence does is invalidate those feelings, which ultimately does more harm then good.

What matters is what I AM feeling. Let’s just deal with that, and for crying out loud, LET ME FEEL IT.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Stop trying to make me feel better

  1. Often people say things to me like, “You’re just MAKING yourself feel that way,” or “Don’t let yourself feel that way,” or “Don’t think about it,” or “Be in control of your emotions.” These are all nonsense to me! I guess when you see someone sad, it is natural to want to take their pain away, but it isn’t that simple. It is mine to feel. When I am sad it sometimes is better if someone asks, “Is there anything I can do?” or just keeps me company. Just sitting and watching TV with me can be the nicest thing anyone can do.

    • Oooh yes. I am STRONGLY (YELLING LEVEL STRONGLY) against any sort of “help” or “advice” that can be boiled down to “it’s your fault you feel bad.”

  2. Autism Mom

    I know that when my son is sad, I desperately want the sad to go away because it hurts me to see my boy in pain, and I have to work hard to not say things focused on making it go away. Instead I try to say things that validate his feelings “I feel sad, too,” “it is ok to feel sad,” “I am so sorry you’re feeling sad.”

    Great post about an important point, thank you!