Don’t Be Quick to Cancel the People Who Care

Social intelligence is learned. Hold people accountable — but know when to give them grace.

Laura Rosell
8 min readMar 31


Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels

One of my life’s most benevolent twists of fate came back in 2012, when a group of middle-aged ladies chatting outside a holistic wellness spa in Shanghai randomly urged me to join the local crisis line as a volunteer. I’d arrived in China with zero thought of doing mental health work, but I took their advice — and learned things that have changed my life and relationships for the better ever since.

One lesson from my crisis counseling days comes to mind especially often in our quick-to-anger world. Like when I see people lashing out at well-intentioned others, or grumbling about the fact that total strangers don’t automatically know how to attend to their unique needs, or (just as bad) berating themselves for not having figured out the ‘right’ way to support someone in a sensitive moment. Believe it or not, all these scenarios remind me of a training module on… grief. My trainers once warned us:

People say and do absolutely *stupid* things in the face of others’ grief.

Of course, they phrased this much more elegantly in the moment than I am now, but the sentiment still stands, and it’s actually a profound truth about humanity at large — not just about death and dying, but about life in general.

What does it have to do with relationships in everyday life? Let me show you. Let’s take a ride.

On that day, the trainers explained that even the kindest soul might say painfully insensitive things to someone who’s grieving. Why? Because loss is such a HUGE emotional experience that people fumble in its enormous shadow, grasping desperately — often cluelessly — for ways to help. Hence many a clumsy remark:

  • “They’re in a better place” — okay, but what if the bereaved doesn’t believe in anywhere but here?
  • “It’s a blessing. You must be relieved their suffering is over.” — uh, but do you have the right to call it a blessing? Or to suggest “relief” as the appropriate emotion for a devastated person?

And so on.



Laura Rosell

Love, sex, dreams, soul, adventure, healing, feeling. Available for projects.