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Theo Ubabunike: Remember This When They’re Hurting



Theo Ubabunike: Remember This When They're Hurting | BellaNaijaI have been told that I have a reputation for being blunt, unfeeling and harsh in my criticism. I am sorry about that and I apologize in advance if this post comes across as offensive.

If you’ve ever experienced loss, pain, failure or grief, the first thing you realize is that it is personal. It may be the loss of a spouse, a child, the loss of a job or business, a terminal illness, a divorce or separation, whatever it is, you learn that you never know how the shoe pinches until you put them on. To help a loved one through such rough patch, please remember the following:

It’s not about you
This, perhaps, is the first and most important thing to remember. I can’t sound the gong any louder than this. It is about them and their pain, their hurt and suffering and bewilderment. Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of people who try to make it about themselves; they want to be the one to comfort, assure and pull the aggrieved person out of their misery and earn the best friend of the year award. It is not your responsibility. They have to come to make that decision by themselves and you can only help them do it.

It is not an opportunity to show off your expertise in handling grief and tragedy, or for you to take over their lives and try to fit the pieces, and no one is asking you to whip out that quote from Confucius about grief and pain.

Acknowledge that you cannot take away the pain
As much as it breaks you to see your loved one hurting, and as much as you’d like to take it away, you just cannot. It’s a process they have to go through, and all you can do is love them every step of the way.

Be there… and do it quietly
I have noticed that when confronted with a loved one who is grieving, people get embarrassed and uncomfortable, fishing around their heads for the appropriate words to say. There are really no words that can change the situation or even undo the damage. Nothing you can say or do will make the burden any lighter. It’s okay to not know what to say, and when in doubt, be quiet. Just let them feel your presence as they try to process their situation. Your presence is far more comforting than any words that you might say..

Take your cues from them
Not everyone handles grief and pain the same way. Some become vocal, and others retreat into themselves and become silent. When they’re vocal, just listen. If they choose to envelope themselves in silence, get comfortable. Don’t let the silence unsettle you. Pay close attention to them and let them tell you what they need you to do. It could be to get them Starbucks coffee, or some comfort food, or they may need you to sit with them and watch the sunset, or share a bottle of strong drink. It is important not to intrude. Be close enough to keep them aware of your presence and ultimately stop them from hurting themselves or jumping off a cliff (literally), but far enough to let them lick their wounds in private.

Do not trivialize
I shake my head in disbelief when I hear people tell others who are grieving things like “God knows best,” “We cannot question God,” or “God has a reason for everything,” or such dismissive quotes from the scriptures. I am not disputing the truth in these cliches, but it beats me how people can be so thoughtless.

I believe it is okay if you want to ask, “Why now Lord? Why me?” It is okay to feel forsaken to feel that He doesn’t care. It is okay to express your doubt and pain, because to pretend that we do not hurt, to pretend that we do not feel forsaken and neglected and abandoned, to pretend that we do not sometimes question His love, is the height of falsehood. And if what the scriptures say, that He searches out even the innermost secrets of our hearts, is true, then He better than anyone else can understand even beyond words can explain how we feel inside.

…and for Pete’s sakes do not compare
Pain is pain. There is no greater pain or smaller pain. It hurts and this is all that matters. This is not the time to tell them about your own experience, when you lost your husband or father, or experienced pain similar to theirs. Because while they want to understand and care about your experience, the truth is that they do not (I guess we have all been there – the mind numbing experience of going through something that we thought up until then only happened to others and to us). Your stories will come in handy in the future when they are done grieving and are ready to talk.

As you might have guessed, this was borne from my personal experience and the lessons I took away from my journey. Please feel free to share your experiences and any helpful tips on helping a loved one deal with tragedy

Much love,

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

THEO UBABUNIKE is a lawyer, freelance writer, and content creator. Her free time is divided between reading, fighting for noble causes, laughter, great conversations, drinking wine, and listening to great music. She loves a good story and is the ultimate foodie !.. You can connect with her on Instagram @theoubabunike


  1. Anon

    February 16, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks a lot for this Theo! 2018 wasn’t my year at all. I went through depression! Prior to this period, I never really understood when people talked about depression and suicidal thoughts. Not because my life was perfect, but my problems weren’t insurmountable.

    I failed my PhD qualifying exams despite all my hard work and dedication. On top of that, I have no man, no money, no job……nothing! My whole world crumbled! It was a devastating blow and my PhD supervisor made sure that my life was miserable. Unfortunately, I lost my friends during this time because I was so overwhelmed and was literally drowning in my own problems that I didn’t even have the energy to make calls or reply calls. I wasn’t replying messages from family either. Getting out of bed in the morning was a struggle. The only prayer point I could mutter was “God please don’t let me die!”

    When I finally had a little window of relief, I tried to reconnect with my best friend and her reply was “You know I’m angry with you sha?”. That statement just made me isolate myself even further. When people go through depression, always remember that it’s not about you. If they eventually try to reach out, please don’t remind them of the failure that they already think they are. Just listen and be supportive.

    It’s also wise to explicitly ask for permission before broadcasting to others that someone is depressed. You might think you’re ‘helping’ but you’re not. One of the elders in my former church kept telling other church members (without my permission) that I was going through depression. Then he’ll later try to introduce me to them so that they can talk me out of depression. Everyone (including people that I barely even talk to) would stop and greet me about my depression. I was so ashamed and I felt like a colossal failure. I had to change church because the ‘help’ was getting unbearable.

    All in all, I’m grateful for surviving 2018. I’m in my late twenties and the big thirty scares the shit out of me. My prayer is to flourish and thrive this year and also get settled in all departments of my life…..Amen!

  2. James

    February 16, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Awww so touching!..

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