Twelve years ago I suffered a miscarriage when I was eleven weeks pregnant. It devastated me.
I remember the day of the ultrasound so clearly–the moment the doctor said that there was no more baby. The moment the world stopped spinning.
Time stood still and everything stopped.
And yet, I remember watching how everyone continued on with their lives and their business. The calendar paraded through its succession of days and the clocks continued to mark hour after hour.
How could they not know? I wanted to run into the street and scream for everyone to stop. Right. Now.
But they all kept going.
Everything progressed forward while my heart stayed stuck on that dreary Wednesday in March.
Kids went to school. Grownups went to work. My pregnant friends’ bellies continued to grow, while mine stayed the same.
Oh, how I grieved.
Many people were kind and gentle with me during that time. Compassionate friends brought warm meals and sent heartwarming cards. It was easy to feel loved by them.
And yet, most people walked right on by.
They stopped saying anything at all.
I do understand. So many times people don’t know what to say and so they say nothing. They don’t want to be that person, the one who says the wrong thing, the awkward thing, the unintentionally hurtful thing.
So they remain silent.
But the silence made it feel like my heartache never even happened.
I was afraid to acknowledge my own pain, my own loss, because it seemed as if no one else was.
We live in a world full of heartache and disasters and disease. The age-old question of “why bad things happen to good people” will never be solved this side of eternity.
Please know this: people are hurting. Someday, if it hasn’t already, it will be you.
Maybe you are afraid of saying the wrong thing. You know how easy it is to utter an insensitive remark without thinking, and you don’t want to be that person, so you shield yourself by saying nothing at all.
If this is you, may I make a request?
You might mess up and say the wrong thing. And yes, it’s hurtful to be in pain and to hear insensitive remarks.
But it hurts so much more to be ignored and to feel utterly alone.
Here are three suggestions of how to help a friend who’s hurting:
1. Acknowledge the person
Say hello. Smile. Offer a hug or a helping hand. Write a note and tell the person that you care. It doesn’t really matter so much what you do, as long as you make it obvious that you see the person who is hurting. Feeling unseen is such a lonely emotion. Don’t contribute to the loneliness.
2. Acknowledge the pain
Say, “I’m so sorry you are going through this,” or “I can’t imagine how painful this must be.” One of the most meaningful things anyone ever said to me during a difficult time was a simple “this must be so hard.”
Don’t say “everything happens for a reason.” Don’t compare the person’s pain to some difficulty you’ve endured — unless it’s the exact same thing.
And please don’t ever say, “God never gives us more than we can handle.”
It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to hurt when painful things happen. Let your friend know that you understand that they are hurting and that it’s okay to hurt around you. That they don’t need to paint on a brave, happy face for your comfort.
3. Acknowledge the process
Wounds don’t heal instantly. Pain and grieving are processes. Don’t expect someone to “get over it” quickly. Real healing takes time, sometimes years . Be sensitive. Don’t forget about your friend after the initial shock wears off. Keep asking how they are, keep encouraging, keep smiling and offering a hand or a hug.
Who do you know right now who is walking down a painful, difficult path? Are you willing to show love today and be an example of “carrying one another’s burdens?” What are other ways to show people you care? Would you share in the comments below?