on saying the right thing

I’ve noticed that there is definite protocol on what to say and what not to say when someone has experienced loss.

I’m not sure anyone knows exactly what the protocol is, but it’s out there, eluding people, nonetheless.

My mom said a funny thing to me the other day.  She said, “I feel badly.  I went and looked up some resources on comforting people dealing with miscarriage and realized that I’ve already said three of the things you’re not supposed to say.”

I chuckled a little and said, “Really?  I hadn’t noticed.”  And it’s true.  I hadn’t.

Two opposite realities have emerged as I listen to people talk to me, trying to provide some comfort and consolation:

1) If they really love me (or you), they can’t say the wrong thing.  All the remarks that may not be perfect melt away when I see the true care they have for me in the Lord.  Some friends seem to have a window into your soul, while others struggle to understand, but either way, their love covers it all.

2) Everything everyone says feels, in some sense, like the wrong thing, because it feels like there is only one “right” thing and that would be to tell me that none of this happened and my little one is still alive and growing in my tummy.

So, on the one hand, no one can say the right thing, because no one can tell me it was all a bad dream.  And on the other hand anyone can say the right thing, if they’re motivated by genuine love.

I don’t want to negate the fact that some very insensitive things are said to people during their time of grief.  I’m not immune to this and I think it’s good to have some “don’t say” lists to de-hallmark-ize and de-trivialize the things people get in the habit of saying.

But, on the other hand, people get paralyzed when they’re made to feel that no one can or should speak into another’s loss.

All this to say that if it comes down to a choice between avoiding and saying nothing versus taking a risk and saying the less-than-perfect thing, I vote for the latter.

I’d rather have someone who really loves me step up and say something, than look at me uncomfortably from a distance and feel that avoidance is a must because they don’t want to say the wrong thing.  Even when I’m emotionally exhausted and want to be left alone, the person who speaks to me out of their love for the Lord and for me can never be faulted.

And who knows but that the Lord might use those words or the remembrance of their care at a later time to minister to my soul.

So my encouragement to you, dear reader, is to be the body of Christ to your grieving friends: be His arms around them and His soothing voice comforting them.  And if you’re the one hurting, let them do that for you, even if it isn’t how you would have scripted it.  That’s what I’m aiming for, very imperfectly, as I walk in this valley.