Ever felt stranded? Not just on the side of the road, but on the sidelines of life? Ever felt like you have given it your all and still things did not turn out as you expected?
I have. I’ve been there many times. And in these difficult times, what I needed was not always what I received from others.
Life has a way of blindsiding us: even those of us who prepare well are not exempt from the pains that come from living.
The death of a loved one….
Chronic or sudden illnesses…..
We do not have to live long before we experience pain and loss of some kind, to some degree. And, when I’m honest, I admit that I’ve had a time, or two (or more!) when I did not feel like I had the strength to keep going.
We are so good at telling others to "hang in there" and "keep on keeping on" when they’re experiencing pain…. I'm guilty of offering these platitudes as well. Statements like these, however, are dehumanizing. There are times that we cannot hang on any longer on our own, and comments like this minimize the hurt, loss, and feelings of defeat.
It also makes us, the people saying these comments, hypocrites. Not intentionally, but still, hypocrites in the true sense of the word. We ourselves had moments where we felt exactly the same way, and the last thing we wanted to hear was "hang in there" or keep on keeping on." We felt like giving up, and most likely, all we needed was someone to listen to us, someone to show that they care, someone to remind us that tomorrow is another day.
Sometimes, we use those statements when we do not know what to say to someone else. Other times, it is simply because we ourselves feel uncomfortable with the situation. Sometimes those statements get made because they are the easy way out when we feel inconvenienced or uninterested.
People are not looking to be fixed, they want to be supported. Even on my toughest days, I do not want someone to tell me "It's going to be okay" or "This, too, shall pass." I want someone to just sit with me awhile and walk with me in my hardships.
Next time you encounter a friend who is suffering, do something more helpful than giving advice. Sit with her. Talk with her. Maybe share a time when you overcame a hardship. Most importantly, ask her "How can I support you in this moment?" Offering support in this way reminds her that she is human and valued, just like the rest of us. This is an offering of hope.
Chou Hallegra Gabikiny is a field associate with ADN. Chou is a liscenced counselor and owner of Grace and Hope Consulting. She counsels, consults, and writes about disAbilities, mental health, parenting children with special needs, faith, and every day life.