I recently read an article about a cancer survivor who designed cards she wished she had received. There were ones that read “One more chemo down! Let’s celebrate with whatever doesn’t taste disgusting!” and “When life hands you lemons, I promise not to tell you a story about my cousin’s friend who died from lemons”. I thought, what a great idea! These are written by someone who went through something really awful. Who better to know what is helpful?
The one that really stuck with me was “I’m sorry I didn’t call, I didn’t know what to say.” This one really hit me because unlike the others I recognized the feeling behind it. When Harry’s medical problems began, I felt so alone. I knew that I wasn’t the first person to experience any of the things going on, but it felt like it. I reached out and found almost nothing (which is one of the reasons I began to blog). My friends were mostly supportive but they were scared and confused too. Many of them rallied to help, bless their hearts, but some simply disappeared. Maybe I talked too much about everything, maybe I posted one too many pictures on social media, maybe I sang too many sappy quotes for their liking – who knows. The point is this – sometimes you just don’t know what to say. I’ve experienced it with friends too, being the one at a loss for words. What I’ve learned from my situation is that you always say something. There aren’t always the right words, but being there is being a friend.
The other part of this learning is to not hold it against those who can’t find the words. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I struggle with forgiveness, but it truly is an important part of life.
When you don’t have the words, use any words. Be present. We all fight our own battles both big and small and each battle needs support. I try to be there for my friends for any size battle they take on. Go to the funeral you feel uncomfortable attending. Make the phone call after devastating news. Also, celebrate those victories! We’re all in this together.