Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Did You Say?

" Sometimes a word is found so right it trembles 
at the slightest explanation. " ~ Rita Dove

Do you ever find yourself at a loss for the "right" thing to say? I think it's in the midst of tragedy that we all find ourselves stumbling to be sensitive and kind without sounding placating or insincere. Especially when "I'm sorry" isn't good enough.

Or is it?

We have a very dear friend who has faced serious tragedy. Her husband was taken way too soon - in a completely senseless act of violence - when he was hit head on by someone desiring to end her own life. That person made a decision to end someone else's life in order to end her own. See? Senseless, right? Tragic - horrible - gut wrenching - and just WRONG.

How do you express your sorrow to a family when this happens? You are thinking: "What do you say?" "How can you say the right thing?" "I have no words." We've all thought those things. And they are legitimate concerns.

And how about the months following the initial tragedy? What do you say THEN? There's got to be something to say after you say "I'm sorry" and before you say "So how's the job?" Right?

It's a tough situation. And I won't lie...it can be scary to know what to say!

Recently we had the honor of having dinner with our friend. It's the first time we've been able to sit down and really chat since it all happened. And it was SUCH a precious time of fellowship. We were blessed to have her in our home - and even more blessed to see her inner strength shine. She will tell you that it took a lot of cajoling, therapy and love to get her where she is today. But I am incredibly proud of her.

I told her that I'd stressed out over saying the right thing because I haven't been sure how to fully convey how much I love her - or how sorry I am for her loss. (I'd be able to live with saying the wrong thing and having her angry - but not hurting her. I would never want to add to her hurt.)

She said that one of the biggest things she's noticed is that no one seems to know what to say. So, they do the worst thing possible: They don't say anything. They avoid her or just don't even mention her husband. (It's not as though he left her on purpose! Come on - say his name!) She's even seen people walk the entire perimeter of a room to avoid having to stop to talk. (Which is even sadder because the fact those people saw her out in public should have been a chance to tell her how glad they are to see she's out and about!)

Needless to say, we decided to chat her up while we had the chance. No hiding in our house! We were determined to talk as much as possible. We told stories and shared memories. We laughed - got teary eyed - shared a little anger - just made our dinner as "normal" as possible.

And it was good. Truly good. Just being honest and talking about life seemed natural and right.

I've been thinking about what she said ever since. Her words made me realize that we (people) make it so difficult. We stumble over ourselves in this crazy, inept dance with unpleasantness. Just walking away or hiding seems easier than saying "I am SO sorry" or "I don't know what to say, but I am here for you."

People all hide behind the notion that saying nothing has to the better choice.

I'm sure it's apparent when reading my blog that I am not that person. Being a lover of words, I'll always find something to say even if it's not the perfect thing to say! But I do see how it happens. I just make a conscious effort not to do it.

In this friends' case, I literally started texting her funny things every day....which I have continued for months. (Thank you to another very dear friend who gave me the idea! Tiffany, your wisdom is beyond measure.) Sometimes twice a day. When I didn't know what to say, I just send some funny ecard I found on Pinterest. (Who says Pinterest is a waste of time!?! Pppssshhhhawww.. I say!)

She said she loves getting my texts - and that I should ask her anything we want to know. She said it's been more hurtful to be avoided - or to have someone go straight to the "how's business" kind of questions than it has for someone to ask a question that might seem inappropriate.

And now I'm just passing this lesson along in hopes that you too can benefit from it. In this crazy world where tragedy strikes too often, we need to be prepared to offer those hurting something more. It's not about us. We need to struggle through the uncomfortable moments and find the words (ANY words) to make sure those we love are cared for.....and not avoided.

Who's with me?