Just Say Something

April 19th, 2014

When someone is hurting, we don’t always know what to say to them. So, we say nothing. Just say something.

I’ve read so many blogs (and written some myself) about what NOT to say to grieving people, about how we often hurt people with our well-meaning words. That may be true. However, silence hurts more.

I remember when my husband and I were undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization) to have a baby. We had been very open with friends, family and our church about the process and what we were going through. People were so loving, supportive, helpful, prayerful, etc. I was on bed rest for a few days after our embryos were transferred into my body. During that time, my cell phone constantly buzzed with texts, emails and calls from people consistently checking on me to see how I was doing and how I was feeling.

Then came the day of my blood test, to determine whether or not the embryos (our two microscopic babies) had implanted. Negative test. No babies. Followed by a phone call from our doctor a few days later confirming that our remaining five embryos had disintegrated. No possibility of frozen embryo transfer. Seven lost children. Death and despair.

Sadly, my cell phone was heartbreakingly quiet after that. People stopped checking in with me once they got the word that it hadn’t worked. The silence hurt… maybe not as much as the actual loss I was going through, but it was a close second. Deafening silence. I felt abandoned and alone.

One dear friend came up to me at church the following week and said, “I don’t know what to say. I didn’t know if you’d want to talk about it or not so I wasn’t sure what to do”. That helped me. She “named” what was happening. People didn’t know what to say. I get that. But it hurt. A LOT.

Two beloved friends from out of town texted me and said, “We are coming down to be with you. Just tell us which night is best this week. We will take you to dinner or we will just come sit with you. We can talk or we can be silent. It’s up to you. But we are coming. You pick the day.” That memory will stick with me forever. During a difficult, painful time, I had friends who came and sat with me. They didn’t know what to do or say. Heck, I didn’t know what to do or say. But they showed up. They said something. They were there.

I’ve done it, too. I’ve said nothing because I wasn’t sure what to say, because I was scared of saying the wrong thing, because I didn’t know if they wanted to talk about it or not. How much unintentional harm did my silence cause?

I won’t be silent anymore. I will say something. Sometimes, I say the wrong thing. I did it this past Sunday. A man in our church recently buried his father-in-law. I have been praying daily for their family. I sincerely care about their pain. Clumsily, in the after-church greeting line, I heard these words escape my mouth: “How are you doing?”

You aren’t supposed to say that to a grieving person. I know better. How could he possibly answer that question in an adequate or easy way in the after-church greeting line? Of course he wasn’t doing well. He’d probably watched his wife cry herself to sleep every night, not to mention his own pain. When your whole world has catastrophically changed, it’s not easy to answer: “How are you doing?”

Not the best question to ask. Hopefully, I rectified that faux pas as the conversation continued. But at least I said something. At least he knew that I remembered and cared. Silence hurts people. The last thing grieving people need is more pain.

If you don’t know what to say, it’s entirely appropriate to name that: “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know that I care about you." Just say something.

When in doubt, just say something!

Tina Fox blogs at TinaFoxTalk.com.

comments powered by Disqus