You really do. When you know that a friend, family member, or someone in your life is going through a pretty difficult time, you want to help them however you can. Believe me, your concern and love is highly welcomed and appreciated. However, because of lack of understanding, empathy, or just not knowing what to say, there are certain statements that don’t really help. It happens to all of us. Speaking as someone who has shared concern and needed concern, here are some statements that, honestly, can remain unsaid.
Is it really that bad?
This question minimizes what the person is going through. It’s almost as if you’re weighing acceptable levels of pain and misery. Pain is pain. Misery is misery. It’s not up to any of us to define what constitutes as either.
Have you prayed about it?
If you know your friend or family member well and you know them as a person of faith, this isn’t a question that needs to be asked. Nine times out of ten, they’ve turned to their Creator for help, solace, and endurance. And even if they haven’t, prayer is personal. Instead of asking this particular question, assure your friend that you’re praying for them.
Try to be happy.
They’re trying. Most folks don’t want to be down, blue, or depressed. But this is what the person is going through. Or their chemical wiring. Just support them.
Don’t think about it so much. (Or, if you stop thinking about said thing, it will happen.)
This is an interesting one. Definitely well-meaning. And I’m all for re-focusing energies. I’m all for looking for ways to direct your attention to things that will keep you fulfilled and busy enough that you don’t have the time to think about your current situation. Here’s the reality about me: I can have 100 things to do, but my brain is still going. This is me. Maybe it’s you. So rather than investing in the plethora of ways I can fool my mind into not focusing on my current situation, just be there for me during the times when it’s quiet, my mind is racing, and I can’t focus at all.
How long is this going to last?
Is there a defined length of time that a person is supposed to feel what they’re feeling? This question implies that you feel that there is, and it stings. Redirect: I’ll be here, however long you need me to be.
No one is perfect, certainly, and no one provides support or empathy perfectly. I know I’ve inserted my foot in my mouth several times in my attempts to offer support for the people in my life. But everything is a lesson. With all the amazing ways I’m presently being cared for by my friends and family, I can pay it forward when someone needs me. And at the end of the day, shouldn’t we want to be the persons we needed at a certain time?