I Don’t Know What to Say

4 Nov

A couple of months ago my mother passed away. I posted a short message to my friends on Facebook and was soon overwhelmed by the sheer number of messages of sympathy and comfort I received back. In difficult situations like this social media really comes in handy.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with an old friend about a year ago. He shared with me that he had heard that the wife of an old friend that we used to work with years earlier, had recently passed away. Neither of us had spoken with this friend for a quite a while, and, when I asked him if he had called to offer his condolences he said, “No, I haven’t but I really want to. But I never know what to say in these situations.”

This seems to be a very common occurrence. You don’t know what to say even though your heart feels the emotion you so want to express. It’s happened to me. In fact, when I was a younger man I almost always felt uncomfortable speaking with people older than myself and expressing my sympathies or just my concerns. Why, was that? I’m really not sure. But obviously I felt fear around it.

Maybe I was afraid I’d say the wrong thing. That would definitely get my face to glow red. Or, maybe I feared that whatever I said would be taken the wrong way. Then for days afterward I’d be beating myself up about what an idiot I was.

I remember once, I was on this board, and one of the members approached another and expressed his sympathies on the death of that man’s wife. I hadn’t heard that she died but I was afraid to even mention my sympathies for fear that maybe, since we didn’t know each other that well, my words would sound counterfeit and insincere. And so, to my shame, I did nothing.

As I’ve gotten older I realize how crazy all of this is. It’s was my crazy thoughts that were keeping me from reaching out to another human being with emotions that were both heartfelt and genuine. I learned to overpower my fear of doing this by just doing it. I learned not to be afraid of what to say. Just about anything you say will be greatly appreciated. I know because I have been on the receiving end.

But, if you need something to say try these. For a death: I am so sorry for the loss of your father. I know this is a very difficult time for you. So if there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. For an illness: I am so sorry to hear about your wife’s illness. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I know you’re probably going to be stretched thin in dealing with this. So, if I can be of any help I would welcome your call.

With just the changing of a few words either of the above statements can be altered for any situation and give voice to whatever it is your heart is saying.

Love,

Michael

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