Though this is not the typical response to bullies, Imagine Clinical Training Director Connie Palmer, LCSW, has seen this approach work very effectively. We believe this can really help if your child, or you, is being bullied. Connie teaches about bullying and grief and loss in schools and in the community. This article was written in support of and response to our favorite colleagues and awesome writers at the What’s Your Grief Blog on Grief and Bullying.
As What’s Your Grief experts say, it’s hard to believe that this even has to be written. That such a thing exists. Kids who have a parent or sibling die are getting bullied? Because someone died? Unfortunately it’s true. Here’s our take on it:
People bully not because they are bad people, but because they are seeking power. When you are grieving, you are vulnerable which sadly makes you a target. If you react to what a bully says by getting upset, they have gotten power from you and will be back for more.
It might be helpful to plan and practice responses that are said in a non-emotional way. If they pick on you regarding the death, calmly say, “You are so lucky you’ve never had someone die. It’s really hard.” They may pick on you for things other than the death and the key again is not to get upset. Use humor, change the subject, ignore them, agree with them, compliment them etc. The bully gets no power from these responses and the person being bullied becomes more resilient as a result.
Mean comments that you believe are true often hurt the most and can make us feel bad about ourselves. This is where talking to an adult is really important because you need support for those feelings. For example, kids may get teased because they cry in school when they are missing the person who died. If you get teased for crying, it is really important for you to realize that there is nothing wrong with crying, but as long as you think there is, bullies will keep picking on you about it. Once you know the truth and have ways to respond when someone is mean, you will feel more powerful and able to cope.
This way of responding to bullies is based on the Bullies to Buddies model. Go to bullies2buddies.com or contact Imagine Clinical Training Director Connie Palmer, LCSW at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the connection between bullying and grief.