Category Archives: YeahWrite

what to say

Last week I wrote a post on what not to say which led to great advice from so many of you, especially on what to say. So, as promised, what to say and do when someone is given more than they can handle…

I’m sorry
When you don’t know what to say these two words go a long way and cover much. When tragedy strikes we can’t make sense of it and you know the person traumatized can’t find sense. We don’t need to define the why of it all. I know a heartfelt I’m sorry meant so much to me.

This is awful
A high school friend came to see me. I hadn’t seen him since he graduated the year before I did. He stood by my hospital bed and cried, wiping his face. “I’m so sorry. This is awful. This shouldn’t have happened. Not to you.”
My friend didn’t know I needed his tears. Everybody came in strong, breath sucked in, and bodies rigid. To have someone let their emotions go unchecked relieved me. This is bad. Please, someone. Tell me this is bad. I was devastated and, for a few seconds, I wasn’t alone.
We don’t need to gush about how awful it is, but stand in someone’s pain with them. Side by side, shoulder to shoulder; ease their burden.

Help
We want to do something, anything to help. We ask, “What can we do?”
While I was in the hospital enduring surgery after surgery my parents stood guard, rarely leaving the concrete walls. They barely ate and couldn’t begin to think about what to eat. So, friends and extended family cooked and baked. They didn’t ask if my parents needed it. They just brought.
As I recovered and slowly got better, an old friend of mine baked me a pie. A pie! I didn’t know he could bake. In a place where there was little delight, this delighted me. I had a feeding tube through my nose supplying me with thick chalky nutrients. Food often nauseated me, especially hospital food, so any outside food thrilled me.
Be specific in your help. Instead of ‘let me know what I can do’, just do. Clean, cook, offer to drive, run errands. Bring me a nightgown! I was so sick of hospital gowns a few people brought me nightgowns and made my new unwanted world better. It’s the little things that can sometimes impact you the most.

Be there
My friend Tanya visited me often. Once a week, sometimes more, she drove the hour-long drive to sit with me and when I was able she wheeled me anywhere I wanted to go which was sometimes just to the floor below me. She helped put on my prosthetic legs, pulling and stretching, since I wasn’t strong enough. There wasn’t always a lot of conversation between us. Often I was too tired to speak, so we sat in companionable silence, watching a movie or whatever was on TV. She didn’t come with pat answers, but she did come equipped with homemade cinnamon buns. I loved her for it.

Sacred ground
My friend Loraleigh who was there through it all used the precious words sacred ground when commenting on the previous post. Know that when someone is in deep pain and you, with all your heart, want to be there for them remember you are on sacred ground. You are in someone’s hell, their very own hell, one they wake up to and go to sleep with. Listen to them and love them.

I have so much to say on this topic but I fear your eyes will begin to glaze over. (I’ll save it for the book 🙂 )If there is anything you’d like to add, please do. I love reading what you have to say.


what not to say

When I wound up in a car crash followed by a long recovery I had incredible support. I also encountered people who didn’t always think before speaking. These people have good intentions, but it comes out all wrong. It happens to the best of us. Indulge me in some unsolicited advice on what not to say to those who have been given more than they can handle. (For those of you who are used to more serious posts from me this is more tongue-in-cheek with a side of serious)

When someone is relegated to a hospital bed and has been for months, don’t say, “You have so much time to rest now. Didn’t you say you wanted to be ‘less busy’?”
This isn’t what I meant when I said I needed rest. Being in and out of surgery brings its own brand of busy and I would gladly trade agony in the hospital for my active prior life.

Sometimes it’s best not to relate. An acquaintance said, “I totally thought of you today when I stubbed my big toe. It hurt like hell.”
Hell is toe loss, my friend.

Don’t ever say, “God can still use you.”
Um, what? Still?

Don’t offer up clichés.
It could have been worse.
I don’t know. Losing my limbs and a large portion of skin is pretty bad.
At least you’re alive.
Refer to previous answer.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Even though I love that new Kelly Clarkson song it doesn’t quite…fit.
God won’t give you more than you can handle. Again, refer to first answer.

Don’t tell them in an outburst of love that he/she is an angel. We’re not. I’m not. For those of us who are going through trauma we are trying to get through. We do not have wings. We don’t possess superpowers, although we secretly wished and prayed for them. There are no rules for grief and we want to get to the other side in sometimes the only way we know how. By hanging on.

Give the person who is going through the worst time of her/his life grace.
We want to see our loved ones restored and return to their bright, shining selves. We want them to be okay. One afternoon, heart-deep in mourning, Scott asked me, “When will you stop being angry?” I said, “When I stop.”
Know they want to return. They want more than anything to feel good and whole again. In the 2 years after the crash I would often be in my wheelchair, my mind screaming, when? When? Because, my God, I just wanted to feel alive again. And not this half-person I’d become. Your beloved longs to be okay more than you want them to be okay.

Finally, don’t judge. No one is an expert on pain. Love, have patience, and be there.

I’m working on a guide for my book, something practical and helpful to add to the end of my story.  A little how-to with some step-by-step. So, this is something I’m trying out. I’ll write a post on what to say/do soon. For now, do you have any advice on what not to say?

surrender

When you come from a long line of women who move with bravery and backbone, you’re destined to do the same. Perseverance is your crown. And like the women before me I wear it well. I was born a fighter. My dad said so.

I close my eyes and I breathe. In and out.

Under obligation, through worry and over the unknown I search for that spot inside me where peace resides. The place that tells me I’m going to be fine. No matter the outcome I am here – whole and healthy. My life is good.

While my body rests my mind races. It is dark, the house is still. Outside and over my children is a blanket of stars. The night isn’t enough to quiet me; there is always one more thing. While determination is in my bloodstream rest is foreign to me, to the women before me. If one learns by example then my example is to never stop.

I am crowded, too full to sleep. Thoughts zig-zagging through my brain. Longing for more, always for more, I wonder where I will go, where life will lead. What can I do? Change is everywhere.

I’m on my side, pillow scrunched under my head, hands curled under my chin. I remember holding my babies when they cried; gently patting their small soft backs as I sang lullabies into virgin ears. Soon, soon with long slow blinks, their mouths forming an ‘o’ they surrendered to sleep.

There is a time to fight and this is not the time. I breathe. In and out. I give in to the night. I surrender. To peace. To rest.

Swept up

In this ballet girl!

Annie is part of a ballet character duo this year and here she is on stage mid-performance as one of the two Dueling Maestros!