Why the term “At Least” is not helpful

Everyone has challenges in their lives in one form or another. With any form of loss from losing items right through to loss of a relationship, pet and especially a life, as human beings we need support, understanding and empathy.

As a medium and a celebrant, I’m faced a lot with others grief and do my best to support and empathise as much as I’m able to. As I know from my own personal experience when going through any type of grief that other people’s support and compassion helps me through it. It doesn’t fix it but it helps.

One of the expressions I found the most difficult to deal with is when I have gone through any type of loss is the term “at least”, diminishing my feelings and more or less telling me to “zip it up”. Which can be a way our society deals with things. Often the Indigenous cultures deal with grief and loss a whole lot better. They embrace and allow the grief process.

Recently I lost my wallet which is something logically I can replace and is not the end of the world. However, at the time I felt sick and all I could think about was “how am I going to buy my family Christmas presents?!”. My children and some friends were awesome and said “that sucks” or similar things. I felt understood and supported. A well-meaning person made decided to be matter of fact and obviously thought I needed some pull yourself together words by saying: “you can replace a wallet, it’s only cards for goodness sake”. Which made me feel like I was being told off and not allowed to be upset.

There was a loss of someone’s pet recently and I heard some lovely supportive words “oh that’s sad, I’m really sad to hear that. Verses some comments “oh well at least it was quick or they can get a new pet”. To be honest some comments flabbergasted me. They felt cold and unfeeling. I could not help think “How would you feel if it was you?”.

When someone loses a loved one it is hard to know what to say. I good thing to say can be things like “I’m so sorry to hear this” or “I’m so sorry that must be really hard for you”. Be authentic, people can tell immediately if you are being congruent or not. Refrain from words such as “at least they are in a better place” “At least they are no longer suffering”. Do your best to hold back from saying “at least or oh well” comments as usually they are not helpful. In fact, usually these type of phrases often makes the person feel worse. Diminishing their feelings, like they are not allowed to grieve, have emotions or feel upset.

Loss and grief are part of the human experience. If you feel grief you are allowed to express yourself as long as you like and go through the process. There is NO time limit of grief or fixed structure or process. It is personal and different for everyone. When speaking to someone dealing with any sort of challenge, problem, difficulties, loss or grief be mindful of how they would feel. Put yourself in their shoes and think “if that was me how would I feel”. Empathy, kindness, understanding and compassion go a long way. If someone hurts you by not allowing you to be upset or in grief you are entitled to say “that statement does not help me”. It is good for you to express how you feel and good them to be told how you feel. Be strong, have courage and don’t be afraid to be the authentic you.

Blessings and love


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