Wednesday Wisdom Series: The I’s Have it! The Importance of Ensuring that the Impact of Your Words, Match Your intention
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Here is your bi-monthly Wednesday Wisdom series from the Family Assistance
Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of
traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written
and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D. and distributed by the Family
Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., Reprint is available
with written permission from the Foundation. 

The I's Have it! The Importance of Ensuring that the
Impact of Your Words, Match Your Intention 

AviemWednesdayWisdom2 2 

Within a day following a recent mass transportation accident in the US, a
high-ranking government official announced in the media that the “silver lining” of
the accident was that “only” one person had died.  Most people who heard him likely
understood his intention as wanting to let the world know that the rescue and
recovery effort was complete, and that the accident could have resulted in multiple
fatalities, but had not.
However, the impact of what he said on the family members of the person who
was killed would result in a Second Assault (unintentional harm), according to the
teachings of Human Services Response™ (HSR™). When people are grieving, to
feel validated and have our losses respected and honored helps significantly in
long term healing.  In a tragedy like this one, where there is heavy media attention,
it is especially helpful for high ranking officials to affirm the significance of the losses,
regardless of numbers.
Invalidations occur when anyone minimizes—attempts to make less of a loss—as
in the above example; rationalizes—attempts to make grieving person’s pain ‘better’
by making the loss sound logical, e.g., “They were just in the wrong place at the
wrong time”; intellectualizes—attempts to depersonalize the loss by refusing to say
the deceased’s name, e.g., “the victim” or “the deceased”; and/or finally,
philosophizes, by attempting to remove the emotional experience of grief to a
spiritual or higher purpose phase, e.g., “He is in a better place,” or “At least he
did not suffer.”[1]
“You can’t heal what you can’t feel.”
John Bradshaw, American Counselor, 1933-2016
Bereaved people need to be able to experience all of their feelings in order to
integrate their losses and live productive lives after loss of a loved one. All who
play a part in the response process and others in leadership roles would do
well to validate grieving persons by avoiding the above examples of invalidations.
We must remember to consider the impact of our words and endeavor to match
them as closely as possible to the intent behind them.

[1] Second Assault examples are excerpts from the HSR™ training curriculum and are
© Higher Resources, Inc.

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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you
did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
(Maya Angelou, American Poet 1928-2014)

Every organization should ensure that the company spokesperson and all who
may deliver or write public statements are trained to consider the impact of their
words. Showing compassion for all involved in any tragedy is essential for
showing respect for families of deceased and all survivors—and for the public
image of an organization.

Aviem Wednesday Wisdom4 2

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