When You Don’t Know What To Say To Someone Who Is Suffering

It seems like when someone is suffering in some way, the majority of people have no clue on what to say.  Rather than saying nothing or admitting they don’t know what to say, most people make insensitive, hurtful or even invalidating comments….

  • “You should be glad your grandmother died.. she’s not suffering anymore.”
  • “I know you’re sick.  I had that same problem & it was horrible.  I ended up in the hospital & in more pain than I thought was possible!”
  • “The reason you have this problem is you just don’t have enough faith!”
  • “You should be grateful it’s not worse!  Other people have it much worse than you do!”

Comments like these are invalidating & hurtful.  They also make the person with the problem feel as if they are whining about some petty little problem instead of the crisis they are facing.  These are the last things a person needs to feel but especially at this time!

If someone you know is having a problem, then please, PLEASE seriously think about what you say to that person.  You don’t want to make them feel worse than they already do.  Also, a good idea is to ask God to give you the right words to say.  He will be glad to do so.  Luke 12:12 says, “The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them.” (VOICE)  

Don’t forget too that people are individuals.  Even if you have experienced the exact same problem as your friend, you both will handle it differently because you’re individuals.  Just because your friend feels differently than you did or is handling the situation in a different way than you did doesn’t mean that friend is wrong.

Remember, the situation is about your friend, not you.  Even if you experienced the exact same problem, keep the main focus on your friend, not you or what you did.  It’s fine to share that information if your friend asks, but the main focus should be on your friend.

This brings me to another point.  Don’t offer advice unless asked for it.  A lot of times, people just want to vent or talk about their problem to help them get some clarity.  They aren’t looking for you to solve it.  They’re looking for you to listen & offer empathy.

Don’t go too far with positivity.  Sometimes being too positive comes across as invalidating.  When I survived carbon monoxide poisoning in 2015, I nearly died.  It was tough to come to terms with.  Upon telling one person that I came very close to death, that person said, “But you didn’t die!”  That comment came across as something was wrong with me for being upset instead of only being grateful I survived.  “I’m so glad you didn’t die!” would’ve been a much better response.  That response would have shown the person accepted that the situation was bad & they care about me rather than basically shaming me for being upset as any normal person would’ve been.  Being positive can be a good thing but sometimes it’s also ok to admit something is very wrong, & to respond accordingly.

There are also some situations where you simply have no clue what to say.  When a person loses someone they love, for example, there is nothing in this world you can say to make their pain go away.  Rather than try, simply be honest.  Admit that you don’t know what to say, but you’re there for them if they need anything.  When my father was dying, a couple we’re friends with stopped by our home one day.  Neither had said anything so I wasn’t sure if they knew about my father or not.  I mentioned it along with the abuse I received from the flying monkeys at the time during our conversation.  They said, “We saw you mentioned it on Facebook, but honestly, we had no clue what to say.  We’re sorry all this is happening.”  That may have been the best thing anyone said to me at that time.  They were honest, non-judgmental & not critical at all, which was just what I needed.

Lastly, don’t forget to offer to pray with & for your friend.  I’ve noticed even people who don’t share my faith appreciate the offer a great deal.  Prayer seems to offer comfort to most people, no matter their religious beliefs.  However, if the person in question is angry with God or adamant in believing He doesn’t exist, this is not a good thing to say.  Nothing says you can’t pray for that person when not in their presence though…

Dear Reader, please keep these things in mind when someone you know is suffering.  These simple tips will help your friend & maybe even strengthen your relationship.

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4 Comments

Filed under Christian Topics and Prayers, Mental Health

4 responses to “When You Don’t Know What To Say To Someone Who Is Suffering

  1. My favorite part of this post is this:
    …a good idea is to ask God to give you the right words to say. He will be glad to do so. Luke 12:12 says, “The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them.” (VOICE)

    Now, why didn’t I think of that when my daughter lost her precious pet chihuahua on New Year’s eve? It’s so hard though, when you want to take away someone’s pain, but you can’t.

    Like

  2. I loved that the best thing someone said in your crisis was, “I didn’t know what to say.” That is really not hard to say – in fact, if you really don’t know what to say, it is simply the truth. So simple. So easy. And yet so elusive. I’m going to try hard to remember this the next time I’m at a loss for words!

    Like

    • I know! Saying they didn’t know what to say was so much better than some condescending or invalidating comment. I doubt I would’ve known what to say if it was someone else going through that situation, so I totally understood them not knowing what to say.

      Oh you should! I can tell you from personal experience it means a lot more than a lot of comments! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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