Learn why it's important to embrace the sadness and discomfort of grief and what we should never say to the greiving.

“At Least …”

The Importance of Embracing the Sadness of Grief

by Meredith Fields Lawler, LCSW

Published May 20th, 2016

“Dad is not doing well today.” I cannot tell you how many times I have called my family members and uttered these words, usually in hushed tones, with notes of dread, fear and sadness in my voice. It is a terrible feeling to watch someone I love change. This journey has encouraged me to reach out to others that have walked this rocky path. People experience the death and dying process in many varying ways.

I have talked with families who lost their loved ones quickly. They tell their story in a rushed fashion as if they still cannot even catch their breath. The loss came quickly and hit them like a bowling ball rushing down the lane crashing into the pins. It was fast, loud and left devastation in its wake, yet these grieving families often hear: “At least she did not suffer long.”

I feel like this is the longest
goodbye of my life ...

I have also talked with families that are like mine. My father is slowly slipping away. Some days he sleeps all day and some days he is talkative. Some days he eats well but, on other days, not even a bite. He is changing and he is becoming weaker right in front of my eyes. Every time I tell him goodnight, I wonder if that was the last time. He is dying slowly, and while I treasure the time with him, it is a heartbreaking experience. I feel like this is the longest goodbye of my life and my grief is a mountain and I cannot even see the top yet. Yet my family and other families like mine often hear, “At least you have time.”

Those two little words, “at least,” can bring such pain to a grieving person. It feels invalidating and as if your breaking heart is not being heard. The words “at least” should never be uttered to a grieving person. There is no “at least” when you are faced with losing someone you love. I understand that others want to be helpful and they don’t know what to say. I get that and I respect that.

There is no room for 'at least' in grieving, but there is an ocean of space for 'I am here.'

My desire is that, as a society, we can learn to grow and change how we view grief, and that we reach a point where we do not need to add a clause at the end of conversations — that we can sit with the discomfort and sadness. We can be fully there for grieving people in a way that is honest, raw and loving. There is no room for “at least” in grieving, but there is an ocean of space for “I am here.”

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About Meredith Lawler

Meredith Fields Lawler, LCSW - When Your Innocence is Shattered

Meredith Fields Lawler, LCSW

Director of Outreach Programs at Crossroads Hospice Charitable Foundation

Meredith Fields Lawler is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Director of Outreach Programs at Crossroads Hospice Charitable Foundation. A graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Social Work, Meredith has dedicated her career to medical social work, the elderly, hospice, death and dying and grief recovery work. In addition to her work at the Foundation, Meredith maintains a private practice in which her specialty is older adults undergoing life transitions, trauma, grief and loss. Meredith makes her home in Tulsa, OK with her husband and their three boys.

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