To a grieving heart, how you say something is as important (if not more so) than what you actually say. Because we are so focused on surviving, on remembering to inhale and exhale when all we really want to do is disappear into the vastness of wherever our loved ones have gone, because being alive hurts, we honestly do not have the luxury to see past what is said into what is actually meant by it. We just don’t.
Imagine being a child. Imagine falling down so hard on the pavement that your knee is both bruised and scraped. Now imagine someone fixing you up by roughly rubbing iodine onto your bruised and bleeding knee and telling you that you have to stop flinching and crying. This person isn’t trying to hurt you, this person is trying to help you, but when you are in that much pain, and you’re just given more pain on top of that, it’s hard to see the good intention.
Now imagine someone telling you that they’re going to help clean up your knee, but that it’s going to hurt for a while. They slowly dab at your scraps, stopping once in a while to let you catch your breath and say, “I know it hurts. I’m sorry.” Can you see the difference?
It’s the difference between fixing and healing
(unintentionally) hurtful “fixing”
- “Be strong”
- “S/he is in a better place” or “It wasn’t meant to be”
- “God has a plan”
- “You’re still young” or “Just have another one”
- Anything that begins with “At least…”
- Saying nothing
- “Life goes on” or “You have to move on”
not so hurtful “healing”
- “It’s hard for me to see you hurting, but I’m here for you”
- “I wish s/he could be here with you”
- “I don’t understand why this happened any more than you do, but I hope, with time, you can find peace and healing”
- “I know how much this baby means to you”
- Anything that begins with how you feel and doesn’t end with answers you can’t possible be sure of
- A simple “I’m sorry” or a hug or even your tears
- Remembering and saying that you remember
Will you share how you’ve received compassion during a time of great pain?
What did that person say? How did the how of saying it offer healing? Have you unintentionally hurt someone when you were only meaning to help? How did you learn from it?