When somebody has one of those life changing moments in the worst way, it’s hard to know what to say, how to be there for them, or when to show up or when to leave them alone.
I have found that people are always searching for the right thing to say, the right words to make everything better. That’s the thing though, your words won’t make the situation better. Sorry. It’s just not going to happen. We search and search trying to have the right words because we are at such a loss at what to say during pain, tragedy and grief, that sometimes maybe, just maybe, we should just look at what not to say.
When we lost our son we had the best support in the world. People cared, prayed and loved us in such incredible ways that we still feel it. During the whole process though, I learned a few things on how to be there for someone who is going through something painful. While so many people mean well, there are also so many things you just shouldn’t say.
These are just my personal thoughts, not rocket science or the next book to be released on Amazon. I have talked with many people that think very differently, because people are different. These are just my own little thoughts on how to help someone going through grief. It’s actually pretty simple, really.
Don’t tell people you know how they feel. Because well, you don’t. It doesn’t matter if you have gone through a very similar situation as someone, you still don’t know how they feel or they are processing everything. We are all different, so even if we go through similar situations, we feel it differently. I remember when I was pregnant with our son, and were told he would die, I thought it was the craziest thing when someone would tell me they knew how I felt because they had a friend with a cousin that almost lost a baby once. What? And your friend’s cousin still has that beautiful healthy little baby? Yeah, not the same my friend. I would just smile and and listen to story after story of people telling me they knew how I felt, all the while wanting to scream at the top of my lungs, “YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW I FEEL!” I guess it was better that I smiled instead.
Don’t offer your own miracle story. While your story is amazing and beautiful, it is not helping the situation. Trust me, I believe in miracles. I prayed for a miracle for our son till he took his very last breath. However, there is a line between offering hope and adding a little salt to my wound. People would tell me miracle stories all the time that were completely unrelated to what I was going through, and it was not helpful at all.
Don’t offer your great solutions to their terrible pain. I can’t tell you how many times I was told that my son dying would be used for something great. Um, okay. While I understood that it would be, I did not need to hear that while going through it. When I was about to loose my baby, I could have cared less what good it would bring the world. No good was worth the pain and loss of life in that moment. It made me realize though, that people are always looking for a solution to pain. I understand it, and have been guilty of it so many times too. Telling me why God decided to have me go through this or what good it would bring is not going to take my pain away. Stop feeling the need to offer solutions. You don’t need to fix things for people. I think we need a little less offering of solutions to our pain and a little more comfort.
So, you’re probably thinking, “Thanks so much for the harsh realities of what not to say, but a little help on the age old question of what do I say?”
So glad you asked. It’s so simple really.
Just love them. It’s that simple. It takes a lot of the pressure off, really. When we are so concerned with how to make people feel better, or how to solve their problem, we take on the pressure that wasn’t designed for us. Jesus can carry the heavy load of making pain feel a little less painful and bring peace and joy to our darkest hours. That’s not our job. Our job is to just love people. Just show up for them. You don’t have to offer your insights to how they are feeling, why they are feeling that way, or when and how it will get better. Just simply tell them you love them. That you are there for them. That you are sorry they are going through whatever they are going through. Ask them what you can do for them or how you could be helpful. That’s all that people really need to hear anyways. Nothing you or I can say will take away heart wrenching pain, doubt or fear, but our love can make all the difference. So when you are contemplating sending that text, send it. When you are thinking about making that call, make it. Even if they don’t respond, show up for them. Give them their space, but simply let them know you care. And be consistent in your love. It gets the loneliest after the initial shock of pain has passed and you are left dealing with grief while everyone else is moving on with life. Just be consistently there for people. We don’t have to complicate pain because it scares us and we don’t know what to do with it. We just need to love people, consistently.