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?