Friday, August 17, 2012

What Not To Say

 I’ve met so many brave and courageous people this month who are suffering from a variety of tragedies -- illness, death of a loved one, job losses, foreclosures.  One thing that remains constant in their stories is the lack of real support they’re getting from friends and family.  Many of you have shared stories of things people said or didn't say that was very hurtful.  The following is a brief summary of the top things NOT to say to a friend going through a hard time.

       1)   Don’t ask, “What can I do?”  This person has enough on her plate.  The last thing she needs to do is brainstorm something for you to do to make her feel better.  Instead, suggest something you’d like to do help her such as cooking, cleaning, babysitting, running errands or just listening or praying with your friend.
      2)   Don’t say, “Time heals all wounds.” Because the simple truth is that it doesn’t.  I have a client who’s 92, and all she wants is to leave this earth so she can see her son again who died when he was nine years old.  We don’t get over our grief; we get through it.  We learn to carry on with a heavier load. 
       3)   Don’t say standard things like, “At least she lived a long life” or “only the good die young.”  Or “At least you had time to say goodbye.” These myths help no one.  When your mom dies, it doesn’t matter if she’s 60 or 90, it’s a hard loss to take.  When someone dies before their time, there’s nothing worse than someone saying, “God takes the good ones first.”

       4)   Don’t suggest vague remnants of helpfulness by saying, “Call me if you need me.” Make specific plans to be there for your friend.  “I’m going to call you in a few days when your family leaves and we’ll have coffee, ok?” And then follow up with that. 

       5)   When a friend’s pet dies, don’t say, “Are you going to get a new one?” For us pet owners, pets are an extension of our family.

       6)   When a friend miscarries or has a stillbirth, treat it as the loss of a child that it is.  Don’t say things like, “You’re young; you can try again.”

Helping a friend through a difficult time is never easy.  Here’s what I know – doing something is better than doing nothing.  Send a card, make a phone call, visit with a meal, be a good listener.  Share who you are with your friend.  When I was dealing with cancer, my crystal therapist friend would set up a crystal grid for me each week.  My writer friend texted me positive affirmations almost every day.  My Catholic friends gave me St. Agatha medals (she’s the patron saint of breast cancer) or St. Peregrine figurines (the patron saint of cancer) and had healing masses said for me.  My artistic friends would mail me beautiful cards with healing messages.  Some sent me books, knitted me shawls and blankets or cooked meals for my family.  You have something wonderful that you do.  Share that something wonderful and you’ll be a beautiful gift during a difficult time.

*Check out the PsychicTeachers Facebook page for stories people shared of the worst and best things people said to them when they were grieving.

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