Well meaning people say the funniest things sometimes.
I’ve experienced some loss. My Mom passed away when I was in my early 20s, my husband and father of my children died a few years ago, and my Dad a few months after that.
My kids and I thought we’d move across the country for a fresh start last year, only to land in a new place with the same old problem: pain.
We all get to struggle I’m learning, and life is a continuous cycle of joy and pain.
Our family dog, Artie — a gentle giant of a Yellow Lab, just five years old — was diagnosed with cancer soon after we moved. He had been my best bud since my husband passed, after sitting vigil with me through my husband’s cancer battle. I was certain he’d be along with us for this new adventure, but he is running the streets of heaven — no leash even — with my husband, a giant lapdog for my mom like he was for me.
We returned to our home town a few weeks ago for an event, and friends who knew my dog and loved him tried so hard to console us. They had been faithful friends through my husband’s illness and his death, and must have been as baffled as we were at the timing of yet another loss.
One good friend said, “I like your new puppy. He’s cute. But I miss Artie.”
Yes…me too. I joked with her about how the new puppy, a gift from my kids for Christmas, is a bit of jerk. We laughed. I know she was just looking for something — anything — to say.
So what CAN we say to someone who is in a place of pain? Well, there are a few things I know we should probably not say. Things like, “I know how you feel,” or, “God has a PLAN in this, and He will bring good out of it.”
I mean, that last statement is TRUE. But it’s really not something to say to someone who is in the very middle of the depths of despair and loss. That can and will come later, but not now.
Here are FIVE THINGS we COULD say to someone who is some serious pain.
1. This really stinks. Or, this really is awful/heartbreaking/painful.
2. My heart breaks WITH yours. Empathy from others is felt when it’s real. Just sitting in the heartbreak with someone, right where they are, can take the edge off the pain.
3. You are NOT ALONE. Then, don’t leave them alone…just show up, be present…physically or in calls or even texts that say JUST that: “I am here. I am with you. I’m not leaving you alone in this.”
4. You are doing GREAT. If possible, be specific: “Look at you! You showered today.”
5. Nothing. Sometimes saying ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is best. Just be present.