What To Say When You Don’t Know What To Say

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I’ve been a bit quiet around here lately in the personal department.  We are doing well as a family and just praying for the next step.  I have about 40 personal posts in draft form (including this one) that I have waited to finish writing.  I haven’t been in the mood to open up again.  I needed time.  Many people have reached out as I publicly announced our pregnancy and lost the baby days later.  I began my mourning process online with all of you.  I felt like that’s what God wanted and it was is a scary place to be.  Through this I learned a lot about compassion.

Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. ~ dictionary.com

We can’t understand what to say to someone who is mourning or going through a difficult situation unless we’ve been through it.  Well, that phrase is a bit off because we are different and no one has been through the exact same thing or feels the same way.  Let me say that again,

We are all different.

If your friend is going through a difficult time,

try not to compare or say it happens all of the time,

& DO something.

This is far from an exhaustive list or the only ways to approach friends in hard times, more than anything I want to encourage you to pray for wisdom in each unique situation.

The one thing I could say is to not avoid a friend in pain.  Don’t pretend like it never happened.  What are some words you could use to bring comfort?  Maybe it’s not even words.  Maybe it’s more than that.  Find the right moment and the right way (depending on your relationship) to drop a note, send flowers, a meaningful gift, a Facebook message, or a voicemail.

A friendly smile or just a normal conversation having nothing to do with the pain may be just the thing they are craving.   Ask the spouse or someone close what you could do.

Be careful approaching them in person.  For me I had (and still have) a hard time not crying if someone asks me about my last month.  Make sure you’re not in public, and look for cues when to stop talking.  My husband  has gladly been the buffer for me and protected me from public tears by telling people not to ask at the moment.  If your friend doesn’t open up to you over coffee, don’t push & don’t be offended.

Bible verses are nice, but it’s also difficult when you turn around there’s another person quoting verses at you.  I’m not telling you to avoid them, just be sure that you pray about it.  Think about whether you’re trying to truly bring comfort or be “the one with the perfect words.”

My favorite way to be a friend in a difficult situation is to pray.  I don’t know the words, but God does.  I pray in the quiet of my day.  When I’m struggling I appreciate and know the power of prayer.  I covet them.

Share any of these things knowing you may not get a response.  Remember, don’t be offended.  It may be just too tough to answer, but words if truly coming from the heart are appreciated and often treasured.

I’m just getting out of my cloud of avoidance and only choosing to talk to a few people.  My way of dealing with it is journaling on my computer and praying.  Another person may want to talk for hours or need professional counseling.  Our creative God has made us unique and that includes the ways we struggle….& that makes it it difficult for the rest of us to know how to show compassion.

I am thankful to all of you who have shown true compassion.  I’ll never know why this happened but I am praying to allow God to make something beautiful out of the pain and that’s why I’m writing here.

What do you think?  Is there a right or wrong way to comfort someone?  Any advice or wisdom for all of us?

An update on my Mom’s cancer journey – she has been declared cancer free after her chemo treatments.  Her last scheduled surgery was Friday and she’s recovering well at home.  She is grateful for all of your prayers and notes of encouragement!

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  1. praising God for your wisdom and perspective in all of this. praying big prayers for you, friend.

  2. I think this is good advice, Virginia–though I’m so sorry you need it right now.

    I’ve definitely said the wrong thing before, but I’ve also been deeply hurt–perhaps more so–by friends who were too embarrassed to say anything when they knew I was hurting, so they didn’t say anything at all. Thanks for sharing this so well-meaning friends can speak comforting words, instead of hurtful ones or passing altogether.

    • Virginia Davidson says:

      Thanks Anne! I think we all have been on both sides. I know I have had to apologize as well. Can’t wait to see you again =)

  3. For me, in seasons of hard, I need a good long solid hug. If I could see you (and if you’re the hugging type) – I’d hug ya.
    The worst thing anyone can say to me is anything along the lines of “I understand what you’re going through” because the only one who understands is the One who makes all things.
    My heart breaks when I consider going through what you’re going through. I can’t understand, and so I pray all comfort from the One who can. I’m asking Jesus to keep holding your heart V.

    • Virginia Davidson says:

      Nadine, I’ll take the hug for sure =)
      So true, Jesus knows our pain…He’s the only true Comforter.
      Isn’t it nice that we’re not alone!

  4. Many days I find myself in thought over your past month. I’ve thought about texting you a virtual hug each time but realized it would make your phone beep to much. But I do love seeing you smile and laugh again, know that I’m continually praying for you and Paul.

  5. I worry that I won’t say the right thing when giving comfort…I think it depends on how well you know me. For me, if I am the one in pain, I actually may not want to hug you (and I am a hugger type normally!) because I will cry, and crying may not be where I want to go at that moment.
    Thank you so much for sharing this great post.

  6. Thank you for your vulnerability and words or wisdom.

  7. Beautiful post. Praying for you.

  8. Thanks for this Virginia! What wisdom… I know that these will help as I encounter friends and family who go through this same situation. Praying for you as you continue down this path.

  9. I agree with you, Virginia. I think it’s important to be with someone, but not press when they’re going through a difficult season. We all handle things differently and comparing or offering advice is not the way to go. Well-said, my friend.

    • Virginia Davidson says:

      Thanks Beth. You said half of my post in 2 sentences – maybe I should have you edit for me 😉

  10. Sending you a cyper hug. I just popped in – for some reason I haven’t been getting email updates but it shows that I subscribed. I didn’t know about your loss – I am sorry. No words can really say how deeply I feel for you. While I’ve never experienced that myself I have very close friends who have. And my Mom lost my little brother at birth. Praying God will continue to carry you.

    • Virginia Davidson says:

      Bummer! Did you confirm the email update? I can “delete” you so you can sign up and confirm again. Glad you connected on FB! =) Thank you for your kind words. What a tough time for your Mom!

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