I don’t often talk about religion – mainly because I have never wanted this site to represent one set of beliefs. I have always believed very strongly that the bond of parenting and motherhood should be what binds us in this space I have created….. I don’t want anyone, who might not share the same religious perspective as I do, to feel uncomfortable.
But I was really struck by something in church this morning… So I want to share it with you. And I think it trancends religion. Our priest – easily one of the kindest souls in the world – was talking about things NOT to say to someone who is sick… and I couldn’t agree more. (I also think these apply to anyone going through a tragedy like the loss of a loved one.) He gave us five. He followed with five things TO say. I couldn’t remember them verbatim, but fortunately, I was able to find his Homily (sermon, preachings) online. And the commentary after each point is actually mine…. this is how I felt as I listened, and how I believe we should comfort each other.
What NOT to say when someone is sick:
- Everything will be ok: How do you know that? You don’t. You might HOPE everything will be ok, and you might have faith in the strength of the person struggling, but ‘ok’ likely doesn’t describe the journey the sick will experience.
- You look Great. No, I don’t. When I’m sick, when I’m gaunt and packed full of medication…. when I’m exhausted and haven’t seen the sun in weeks…. I just don’t. You know it, and I do too. So, let’s not pretend.
- I’m sure God did this for a good reason. The non-religious variation on this is ‘everything happens for a reason’…. and I think it is CRAP. A) as a person of faith, I don’t believe in a God that ’causes’ sickness (or loss for that matter) B) The idea that YOU think there is a ‘good reason’ for me to be struggling is insulting. And it means I probably don’t want to be friends with you anymore.
- Be Strong: As though I’m not strong? As though I’m shouldn’t cry or have a moment of feeling sorry for myself? No one wants a sick individual to ‘be stong’ more than the person suffering, but to think I can’t share a portion of my struggle with you because I’m supposed to ‘be strong’? Well, that hurts.
- I know just how you feel: No, you don’t. Even if you have been sick….. even if our symptoms are similar…. even if our prognosis is the same, you just don’t know how ‘I’ feel. We aren’t the same person. Please allow me to experience this in my own way, without the expectation that I should handle it as you have.
What TO say to someone who is sick
- Don’t write me back: give them permission to accept and embrace your kindness without feeling as though they have to reciprocate. You will be lifting a weight from their shoulders.
- I’ll be going now: Even if they LOVE having you visit, there will be a moment when they need the quiet, they need to sleep….so beat them to it. Visit. Love. Leave them in peace.
- I’m not sure what to say: This is ok. It is perfectly understandable if you don’t know what to say…. being honest is a beautiful thing. I can respect this. What a beautiful alternative to platitudes.
- Would you say a prayer for me? Our priest, Father Joe, believes the sick are suffering in a way many of us can’t comprehend – and that suffering is bringing them closer to God. So asking them to pray for you is an indication you recognize that closeness.
- I care about how you are: I would like to add to this: I’m here for you. When I have been sick or hurting….just knowing someone CARES makes the pain and struggle more bearable. Even if I couldn’t respond…even if I was only able to recognize your love – it matters.
This, for me, was just a lovely reminder to think before I speak. To make caring for the people I love a priority. (And to let them know.) If you have additional thoughts to add to either list, I would love to hear them.