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…
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.
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.
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.
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.