Have you ever noticed when we don’t know what to say, we say really stupid things. I think it’s partly because silence makes us nervous. The affliction seems to peak when we’re trying to find the words to say to someone who’s going through trauma.
It’s probably not best to say to a friend who’s husband has been caught in an affair, “Oh, he’s a jerk anyway. You are better off without him. You deserve better.” Is that supposed to be consoling? What if she and her husband repair their relationship? When someone is facing bankruptcy it’s not comforting to say something like, “Oh you’ll rebound.” Easy for you to say.
I’ve learned so much by watching how people have responded to the loss of my brother-in-law and Dad, one right after another, to cancer. I’ve realized it’s not necessary to repeat what someone already knows …. “At least he’s not suffering. He’s in a better place. God will get you through this.” We tend to offer those lines as if it’s news to the suffering person. Are we expecting a response of, “Oh gosh, thanks. I’ve never thought of that!
I know I’ve said those very things, but I won’t anymore. The simple notes and messages are so meaningful: “Thinking of you. No need to call back, just know I’m praying for you. I’ll be thinking about you today.” A knowing look, a hug and a listening ear are the most precious things we can offer to someone who’s hurting.
My takeaway from any circumstance is usually how not to do something. I think I learn backwards. So now I will just hug and listen. Hopefully I have learned how to be a better friend.