Actually, you don’t.
A lot of times, we hear people say this to us or maybe we are the ones who say it to other people. When someone is feeling or going through something, it is important to know that we can never know how ‘they’ are feeling. We might know how ‘it’ feels to go through that kind of situation maybe because we have been in a similar situation, but we cannot know how a particular person is feeling. This is because, similar situations happen to different people in different ways and so, they react to this situation in different ways, in ways that are unique to them.
I don’t know about other people, but I don’t like it when people tell me that they know how I feel. You can’t feel what I am feeling until you have walked in my shoes. You might be able to identify with my situation, but please, don’t try to console me or make me feel better by telling me that you know how I feel. Agreed, we say this to people we love out of concern and with good intentions, but when consoling someone who is grieving, we need to tread lightly and try as much as possible, not to make the situation about ourselves. Because, if you look closely at that statement- ‘I know how you feel’, it comes off a little bit narcissistic. Again, we do this ignorantly and out of love, but sometimes, we might cause more harm than the good which we intended. We forget that we are trying to console the other person and we go on and on about how the same thing happened to us and how we dealt with it and how it also happened to our sister’s friend blah blah blah…..
Some people grieve by tuning out and so while we are droning off about how we know what the other person is feeling, they don’t actually hear us. They just stare into space and nod distractedly to our story and then politely say ‘thank you’ when we finally decide to wrap up our tales of woes. Other people are present and once we open our mouths and give them our spiel, they wonder in their minds how someone can be so clueless and insensitive; they either get angry with us or forgive us for being ignorant. Sometimes, you don’t need to say anything to someone who is grieving; little acts of kindness like checking up on them, giving them a call, or telling them that you are around if they need you is enough.
Yesterday,I came across a blog that was talking about six things you should never say to someone who is divorced or just got divorced. I was guilty of at least two things in that list. It is important to be sensitive towards other people’s feelings and we shouldn’t think we know how they feel just because we have been in the same situation.