We all know people or someday will, who are going through some rough times. When we come face to face with tragedy or suffering, it’s very difficult to know what to say and how to act. It’s pretty awkward most of the time.
Since we went through a dreadful experience ourselves, we’ve heard many variations of “encouragement and sympathy” from folks. I thought it might be helpful to share what we’ve learned, just so you have an idea what it sounds like to the person who’s hearing it. By no means do I mean to judge anyone, since they all meant well, but instead want to raise awareness.
So here goes. What not to say if you’re visiting someone in the hospital, talking to someone who lost a loved one or is dealing with a tragedy:
1. “It could have been worse.”
I know it could have been worse, but that doesn’t help my pain right now. Don’t minimize the situation.
2. “It’s God’s will.”
As a Christian, I know that, and I’m kind of processing that right now. I’m a little confused about that now and maybe just a bit mad at God about it too.
3. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
Maybe not, but it sure feels like it. (Besides, the truth is, God DOES give us more than WE can handle. WE don’t have the strength to handle most of the awful things that happen. That is why God carries us through those awful times.)
4. “Maybe you have sin in your life.”
Yep, and who doesn’t? If that’s the way God worked, we would all have cancer, bury loved ones or die ourselves. I’m so glad that God isn’t like that.
5. “The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
6. “You need more faith.”
How much faith is “enough faith?” I thought there was something in the Bible that said you need faith like a mustard seed. That’s pretty small, if you ask me. If you have more faith, maybe you can pray for me?
7. “It’s all for the best.”
How is burying my child and almost dying myself “for the best”?At this moment, it sounds very cruel to my ears.
8. “God wants to heal you.” “You should go to this healing conference/ have a prophet pray for you”.
How do you know? Sometimes, it’s not God’s will to heal.
9. “Stay positive.”
I’ve been going through a lot of negative, and there is a time to process that. Of course I try to be positive, but it’s kind of lame to say it.
10. In regards to a losing a child. “You’re still young. You’ll have more children.”
How do you know? Just because someone is young, doesn’t mean they will have children. Besides, even if I have 5 more children, they won’t take the place of the child that I lost.
So what SHOULD you say, or do?
It’s ok to admit that you don’t know what to say.
“I don’t know what to say. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I’m so sorry that you’re hurting. I just want you to know that I care about you and am here to share your pain.”
Give hugs, hold their hands. (If they like that sort of thing).
Instead of saying “If there’s anything I can do, just let me know. I’m here for you, no matter what.” That’s very sweet, but most people won’t call you up to ask for help. It’s uncomfortable and we all want to be independent, not needy. Besides, nobody knows what you would actually be willing to do.
Here’s what to do. Be practical and SUGGEST what you are willing to do.
- “Is it ok if I come by and bring you dinner one night?”
- “Can I babysit your kids so you can catch your breath?”
- Give gift certificates to a restaurant, the hospital cafeteria, a grocery store, a gas station, etc., depending on the situation.
- Organize prayer chains/Manage Calls.
One of Sergi’s brothers helped out with this a lot. We had so many people praying for us, and of course many of them called to get updates. Dmitry talked to Sergi to get all the updates and he took all the calls so that Sergi didn’t have to deal with it. He had enough on his mind.
- Organize fund raisers.
Act normal around the person and their family. I’ll never forget coming to church for the first time after the hospital. Yes, I had a bunch of tubes sticking out of me, and looked pretty awful, but I felt SO uncomfortable when one woman kept obviously staring at me and looking me over from head to toe.
I also remember how wonderful it felt when people treated me like a normal girl, and laughed with me, sometimes cried, but most importantly they didn’t act weird.
We had some amazing people who supported and encouraged us in our darkest days. It means so much to be prayed for, loved and knowing that others care about us. We could never have done it without the family of God gathered around us.
Be an encouragement. Don’t be afraid to step up into that awkwardness and extend your care. We are not meant to deal with our pain alone.