After yesterday’s post on Pregnancy and Infant Loss, a few people graciously shared, stating I had found the words they struggle to find. It is a gift to try to be a voice of love for those who care about you who have suffered.
But today I’m left with the words of a favourite author of mine ringing in my ears. Shauna Niequist, who herself has suffered multiple miscarriages and shares about them (among other things) in her book Bittersweet, pens an essay entitled, “Say Something”.
In it she says, “When something bad happens, people say the wrong thing so often. They say weird, hurtful things when they’re trying to be nice…But there’s something worse than the things people say. It’s much worse, I think, when people say nothing.”
It is an interesting concept, this. Silence being worse than fumbling and stumbling and putting our foot in our mouth. At least, when we stumble, we are trying to close the distance between your pain and our understanding of it.
Even if we don’t know what to say, simply acknowledging that and saying we care means a whole lot more than saying nothing. For people who are grieving or struggling, whether that struggle be with death or sickness or finances or family, the problem is forefront. The struggle is the lens through which they see the world. The struggle is like an interface, placed squarely between them and the rest of society. If you ignore it, you may as well ignore them.
Questions can be a good place to start if you are willing to sit and listen. People don’t need our answers; they need to know we care. Ask, “How are you really doing?” or “What is hurting you most these days?” or “Do you want to talk about it?”
Sometimes the question we ask instead is, “How can I help?” Most often, the response is, “I am fine.” People who are hurting have enough trouble remembering what end is up, let alone telling you how you can help them. And while offers to help are meaningful and show care, sometimes we just need to do something. Have you ever had anyone turn down a meal when you show up with it prepared on their doorstep? Have you ever turned down anyone who showed up with something for you? Exactly.
Shauna says, “when there’s bad news or scary news or when something falls apart, say something. Send a note. Send a text. Send flowers. And if you don’t know what to say, try this: ‘I heard what happened, and I don’t know what to say.”
I know it is basic but it is easy to forget and easy to be scared. Let’s be people who say and do something about the hurt we see in others.