Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: Friends lost a young child to a terminal illness, and one half of the couple has divulged a list of things people said to them that they "shouldn't" have. Among what not to say were things that seem to me to be authentic sentiments like, "I haven't said anything because I don't know what to say," "I can't imagine what you're going through," "You're so strong," or even calling your own living children certain nicknames that have special meaning to parents of deceased children.
Where is the border between having on blinders due to grief and not realizing that people are just trying their best, versus unreasonable expectations for others to say exactly what you want to hear?
Answer: It has been well-established in this forum and others that well-meaning words at times of grief can easily be, or just be perceived as, insensitive. And what is the perfect thing to say to one grieving person is a slap in the face to another.
Because these friends just lost a child, I think the best way to approach it is with a free pass. They're devastated. Their pain is spilling over the loss itself and onto everything related to the loss. You, as the not- (or less-) devastated party, are the one who is able to absorb this, so just absorb it.
Question: My ex is marrying the woman he cheated on me with, and I'm happy for them. Hindsight has helped me understand that Ex and I were totally wrong for each other and everything worked out for the best.
Then, yesterday, I got an invitation to their wedding. To say I was surprised is an understatement. I'm free to RSVP "not attending" and forget about this, right?
Answer: Yep. Congratulations on your equanimity and insight. Your work is done here.