Friday, August 30, 2013

REACH OUT, Even When it's not Comfortable

Since passing on some of what I have learned in life is supposed to be one of my reasons for writing, I’m going to pass along something I just learned, or figured out, or whatever.  I caught on to something I should have recognized a long time ago, that acts of kindness or friendship don’t have to be perfect nearly as much as they simply have to be done.

A blog friend of mine suffered the loss of a loved one this week.  She and I have never met, but we have exchanged a few comments on each others blogs and I feel like I know her well enough from reading what she has written to call her a friend.  In any case, on hearing of her loss, I wanted to express my sympathy.  All the overworked phrases, “so sorry for your loss” “deepest sympathy” etc. came to mind but just seemed too trite to use.  After some more pondering, I finally came up with something I could put in a Facebook comment format that I was comfortable saying and sent it off.
It was only later, as I thought about what I had written, that I realized it wasn’t what I said, or how well I had conveyed the sympathy I felt that mattered, only that I had said something at all.  “I don’t know what to say,” is an often heard refrain.  When someone is hurting, we want to help but often feel that there is nothing we can offer that will do any good and are even sometimes afraid we will cause more pain.  Unfortunately, reluctance because we might say the wrong thing can easily be interpreted as indifference.  Someone once said, “The opposite of love is not hate;   it’s indifference.”  It isn’t as important that we always say just the right thing as it is that we not leave the impression that we just don’t care.  The grieving person might not even notice that we have reached out, but if no one reached out their pain could be much worse.

As I think about this subject, I realize that I have been on the other end of it before.  My dad ran a gas station for a number of years after he quit farming.  He had a series of boys/young men who worked for him and to a number of them he and my mother became almost surrogate parents.  They listened to their problems, fed them meals, celebrated their birthdays, and generally treated them more like family than employees.  When Dad died, I expected that some of those boys, now men, would come to “pay their respects,” and I was acutely aware that none did.  I’m sure that many of them had good reasons why they weren’t there, but their absence nonetheless caused additional pain in an already painful time.

When you can reach out to someone in pain, do it.  You may not do it perfectly, or even as well as you would like to, but you can be sure it will be better than not reaching out at all.



  1. You are right -- it isn't what you say but that you cared enough to say something or do something. I remember when my Dad died, I read and cherished everyone of those cards. Someone besides me cared that I had lost him. Little things can be huge! I am positive your act of kindness was appreciated.

  2. Like all your advice, this is so wise and perhaps one of the very best suggestions you could make to a child whose character is in the process of being built.
    When I was newly married and my father-in-law died, I was surprised at how grateful I felt when people bothered to stop by the funeral home visitation. I personally had passed up doing that for others, believing that I'd only be intruding. Wrong! To this day I do not remember a word any of those visitors said to me, but I will never forget that they were THERE.

  3. Having been a nurse for many years I realize that no words have to be spoken to convey our feelings of understanding to someone. A hand on the shoulder. A squeeze of the hand. Simple things of stepping forward count. A great subject for a post and well written.

  4. Your advise is important.
    We all can take a step further to help someone hurting or in need of companionship.
    One of my favorite sayings is, "It takes so little to be above average." Actually, it's the title of a book by Florence Littauer.
    Great book!

  5. Excellent advice. It hurts even more when people ignore your pain because they don't know what to say.

  6. Great advice. Those things that seem so trite are there just so when there is nothing we can possibly say that can match the pain, we have something to fall back on that say, "I know it's not enough for all your pain, but I am so sorry for your loss." At funerals I go to now, sometimes they read out condolences posted on Facebook. It all matters.

  7. Excellent advice. Many people struggle with choosing the right words. Others lose touch and truly intend to visit old friends 'someday soon'. Time marches on and the opportunity passes us. I have lost dear ones and deeply regretted not taking the opportunity to show more care and concern. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Two years ago, a young mother ( friend to my younger sons generation ) lost her baby girl, 4 months old, to a terrible tragedy. Baby died while sleeping on couch with grandmother, most likely smothered. What do you say to that. Well, we all had to find things to say and do for a long long time...and you are right. Just reach out...and keep on doing so

  9. “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.”

    Something I need to work on.. whenever I have nothing to say, I tend to say nothing :(