“i know how you feel,” the most condescending sentence in the english language

I’d like to meet the person who first said: “I know how you feel.” I’d also like to give them a punch in the gut and a stern talking to. To someone mourning or in particularly difficult situations. It’s so simple to say, “I’m here if you need someone to talk to,” or, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Why on earth would you make someone else’s tragedy about yourself? Yes, person who expressed a feeling about a traumatic experience I know how you feel because I am a little stressed sometimes. I didn’t realise that you were some kind of all knowing being who can read the mind of all the people that you meet.

At any rate, they DON’T know how you feel. They instead know how they felt in a particular situation. It’s an entirely different thing. They make the assumption that everyone reacts and mourns in a similar way. That every single sentient being on the planet is the same. Feels the same. Thinks the same. This isn’t even simply about mourning the passing of a loved one. It happens all the gosh darn time over the stupidest things too.

For example, my family had some serious financial troubles and in turn had to sell our home. A friend of mine who was in a far more stable financial situation (albeit possibly not as great as previous years but still upper middle class while we were living off one retail wage) said, “I know how you feel.” No? I don’t believe you do? Of course, I just ignored it because that’s the kind of wonderful individual I am. A true blessing to society.

My grandmother suffered a stroke, then while in rehab suffered two heart attacks and spent the last two days of her life struggling to breathe. All this time her mind was still as sharp as always. Mumbling out the witty comebacks and little jokes that everyone had come to expect of her. She was the only grandparent that I’d ever known and as a result, we were very close. Still, I cannot bring myself to have one of those long sob fests which people are supposed to have when they lose someone close to them. I know she would not want me crying over her. I know she would want me to remember her as she was before the suffering and that is what I intend to do. She was an exceedingly strong woman. One who kept fighting all her life and who loved those around her so strongly. More than once over the last two months, she was given only a few days to live, time and time again she proved them wrong.

I, unlike others, refused to say goodbye (that is not to say one shouldn’t say a last goodbye that just doesn’t work for me). Instead, I left the room with a “byedeebye”. That is something that we have always said to each other and  to me that means “until we meet again”. Her death came almost as a relief with her suffering, it probably makes me sound like a bad person to say that but it did. I know now she is no longer in pain. I know she will always be with me.

I know this is a highly personal post and I don’t really know if I should be writing this at all, let alone sharing it. I just want to get it out somehow. Put my thoughts somewhere. If this can help someone who has lost someone even a little bit. Just knowing there are other people out there who, while not knowing exactly how you feel, may provide some support just through reassuring that it’s okay to feel however you feel. Everybody’s experience invalid. You don’t have to do some soap opera type weeping to be considered having an appropriate human response to a situation. It is okay to cry, but it also okay to not cry (that was a terribly constructed sentence but you know what I mean). I’m sure this will reach no one. Be read by no one. But just in case: You are valid, your feelings are valid and you are loved.




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