I often write about platitudes people tend to say to you when something bad happens. Seemingly well intentioned phrases that further alienate you when you're going through something completely life altering.
"God doesn't give you more than you can handle"
"God only gives special kids to special people"
"Everything happens for a reason"
I could go into detail on why these phrases can be harmful to hear when you're going through the thick of it with a new diagnosis, but that's not what this post is about.
I'm often asked the question, "What do I say instead? I want to support a friend, but I just have no idea what to say, and I don't want to make it worse"
A few weeks ago, I read a poem that I have gone back and read more times than I can count, often with tears in my eyes. It went like this:
When you said, "I don’t know how I come back from this"
and I said "I don’t know either, but you will"
what I really meant was:
This is so fucked and
I'm so angry for you and
I love your earrings and
I see how your son still thinks you hung the moon and
here is what I know:
"You will both come back to yourself and
be a whole new person on the other side and
I'll be here now, and I'll be there then, with
you, the same.
I'll be with you, changed"
I think one of the most genuine things you can tell a friend is:You will not face this alone
You can't tell them that it will be ok, because you don't know that.
You can't pretend that anything prepared them for this or that they're uniquely situated to handle it, because the truth it, they're probably not.
But they'll handle it anyways.
You can't act as if this experience won't fundamentally change them, their beliefs, and every relationship in their life.
But you CAN let them know that you will be with them on the other side. You will recognize who they are and who they were, and who they will become.
Poem Credit: Kathleen Donahoe (@kathleenicanrah).