Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What to say when you don't know what to say


I'm not gonna lie - I'm due for some good news. I feel like in the past few years I've turned into "that girl no one wants to say 'how are you' to because something's probably wrong." I hate being that girl; I try very hard not to be that girl save for a few close friends who by the grace of God haven't completely deserted me (but I'm pretty sure they sigh and roll their eyes a lot when I'm not looking.)

Ironically, all of these things - stresses, challenges, situations - whatever you want to call them - have caused me to be much more sensitive to other people when they say that they're "going through it."

It's of course most prevalent on Facebook. Someone posts something about a sick family member or loss of a job or breakup with a significant other (Hey! We just summed up the past two years of my life!!!) and there's an immediate stream of supportive responses promising prayers, hugs and positive thoughts. Truly, it's nice to read. It's very nice. And I have to say, I do post stuff like my mom being ill on Facebook because my family DOES need the prayers. And if I can get 60 people who I really know, kinda know or barely know praying for her - that to me is a just godly gravy.

But what I've become a little more cognizant of is how I respond to people who are obviously in times of personal crisis. In the past, it was very easy for me to post "Prayers!" then give God a quick holler and be done with it. It was pretty simple to throw out a "How are you holding up?" or text a "Checking in!" just to let them know I'm thinking about them. And again, that kind of stuff is appreciated. Very much appreciated. When your life has become going to the hospital, going to work then going back to the hospital, you forget that the rest of the world is continuing on as status quo. You kind of look around wondering where everyone went, when you're really the one who's gone. Getting that random text or email that says "Hey I was thinking about you and wanted to check in" really does help.

Sometimes, the hardest question to answer is "How are you?" or right now, "How's your mom?" There's no easy answer for that. My usual response to both is, "Hanging in there." The real answer is too long. More than anyone wants to know. And will probably make me cry. "How's your mom?" could take hours to explain. And if you had the time and I didn't feel like I was bending your ear too far, I'd probably do it. It would be way more than you bargained for when you asked the question, but just talking it through with someone sometimes helps.

The other question that's a toughie is, "Is there anything I can do?" I ask this one myself. But I've learned through firsthand experience that I don't KNOW if there's anything you can do. And even if there IS something you can do, I realize you have a life of your own and I'm not about to ask for your help. I will say that next time I'm on the giving end of "Is there anything I can do?" I think I'm just going to do SOMETHING. Fix a casserole. Invite the kids over for a few hours. Say we're going out for drinks and I'm buying. Mow a lawn. Walk a dog. When you're in the throes of a dark and twisty time, you don't know what you need, but when something appears anyway, you're so damn thankful.

I recently read an article about various things to say to people who are going through a rough time. The best response was to someone who had just seemed to lose hope. Basically it was this: "I know you’re feeling hopeless right now, and to ask you to feel hopeful is too much. So let me carry your hope for you." It may sound corny coming out of your mouth, but to someone like me it would mean the world. It's hard to stay optimistic. It's hard to see the forest for the trees and know that everything eventually will work out or be all right or God's Will will be done. To have someone say, "You feel what you need to feel and let me carry the rest" would be a pretty incredible statement.

I'd take THAT over a casserole any day.

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