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Does This Help?

The last couple of weeks have been a flurry of anxiety-provoking events, news broadcasts, and concerns. Madame Weather dealt a nasty hand to Texas, Florida, and other parts of the US. Meanwhile, on the west coast, forest fires have been burning, leaving ash and acrid air in many residential areas. On top of all of those "natural" disasters, last Monday was a reminder of the horrific 9/11 attack on the U.S. in 2001.

Often, it's hard to know what to say in these circumstances. Sometimes a hug instead of words is best. Other times, simply acknowledging that it's a "hard time" is enough. I'm sure we've all read about what not to say, such as, "I know what you're going through" when we really can't know. Ultimately, simply letting another person know that we care and maybe even admitting that we can't find the words, is often the best thing.

When I wrote this week's Pleasure Peek for Monday ...

"Sometimes, the best question to ask before saying something is,

'Does this help right now?'

If the answer is 'no', wait until the next best thing to say pops up."

... I was writing from painful, lesson-learning experience. When my ex-husband died suddenly in June, our daughter was on the west coast where she lives. I mentioned that she might be able to get a "bereavement fare" for the last-minute ticket she would need to fly home. She mentioned that she believed that they weren't available anymore and nothing more was said at that time. However, I didn't let it go and a couple of days later, just before she was due to fly in, I contacted the airline and was told that there was, still, such a thing as a bereavement fare. When I spoke to my daughter, the night before she was to arrive home for her father's funeral, I mentioned it. Her response was appropriate and pained me for having said it. "Mom, I already have my ticket. How could your telling me this help me or be useful at this time?!?" Of course it didn't help. In fact, it only added to her misery. As soon as she told me how it made her feel, I could see exactly how my words did not help.

Other times, (let me know if you relate) I'll say something and the second it takes form as audible I know it's exactly the wrong thing to say! If only I could reach out and snatch the words from the air and swallow them whole, but that's impossible. Usually, I am not only not pausing to think clearly, but I am also trying to make a point or prove myself right. Ugh! Never a good place from which to offer a comment.

I think the best thing we can do, especially when our first thought is that we don't know what to say, is to stop. Take a moment and a deep breath. Be honest. If you aren't sure what to say, express that exact thought. I've come to love the phrase, "I have no words.". Sometimes, we just don't. Don't panic. Being present and simply full of love is more than enough. Knowing this is what I wish for you.


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About the Author




Barbara L Cummings, MS, RN

is a sassy Queen-ager whose mission is to co-create a happier, healthier life with and for others.

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