I will say something when there is nothing that can be said.
When you don’t know what to say, SAY SOMETHING. When tragedy strikes, many people run for the hills because they feel awkward and they don’t know what to say. I get that. It’s a very human response.
Here’s the thing.
SOMETIMES THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN SAY THAT WILL MAKE THINGS ANY BETTER FOR THAT PERSON GOING THROUGH THAT THING. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.
Nothing you say will change the situation or lessen their grief or shock or make it any better. There is no casserole you can make that will make things okay.
NOTHING YOU CAN SAY OR DO WILL MAKE THINGS ANY BETTER FOR THAT PERSON GOING THROUGH THAT THING.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t say anything. Or you don’t do anything.
When we feel socially awkward in the face of pain and we don’t know what to say, it’s FAR easier for us to be silent. Wait until we figure out what to say or how to help. Just sort of step back until we know what would be the best approach.
Thing is. That is a LOT more about us REDUCING OUR OWN ANXIETY than doing what we know to be right. When someone is in massive pain, the goal shouldn’t be about reducing our own social awkwardness.
When we wait till we know what the right thing is to say, we are marking time and leaving them in a void. That moment where the “right thing” to say magically comes to us will not arrive. When there are no words, time will not make the words come. So, however awkward or anxious it is, we need to rise up in the moment.
LOOK THEM IN THE EYE. HUG THEM HEART TO HEART. ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR PAIN, knowing you cannot take it way, but that you SEE THEM AND YOU ARE WITH THEM.
Sometimes all you can say is, “I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I am with you in any way you need it, whenever you need it”.
Some people might want a shoulder to talk about things with. For others that is the last thing they need, they will appreciate distraction. For others, the best way of showing love is practical assistance, where that casserole quietly delivered with love is a demonstration of practical love. You don’t get to dictate that. You can only respond.
But, don’t say nothing and wait till you know what to say. Sometimes there is nothing you CAN say.
In those times, we all remember the people who did not shy away however awkward, but who looked us in the eye and held us even though there was nothing they could do. We also remember with all too much clarity the people who backed away, said nothing, pretended nothing was happening. We know exactly who those people are too.
Sometimes all you can do is be a COMPASSIONATE WITNESS to someone else’s pain.
You think you are not doing anything but actually, you are.
You are becoming part of the healing.
Just because there is nothing you can say, doesn’t mean that being fully, compassionately present to say nothing is not valuable.
It is. More than you will know.
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