You know the saying, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” This post is along those lines. I have some experience in the “life just pulled the rug out from under me” department, and thus have some knowledge about grief and coping. I am kinda an expert on the stupid shit people say to the people in these situations. As your friend, I am going to let you in on the secrets. So you don’t find yourself saying the aforementioned stupid shit. Here are the highlights:
“God never gives you more on your plate than you can handle.”
I beg to fucking differ. God most certainly does give us more than we THINK we can handle, anyway. The person at the receiving end of this stupid statement likely feels like their plate was hijacked by some dude at discount night at the Golden Corral. And they think you, my friends, are carrying a tiny plastic Dora the Explorer plate with a grape on it. So keep this one to yourself. Lest they try and find the largest plate in their kitchen and bust your ass with it.
Speaking of God, be really careful about religious platitudes.
Faith is deeply personal, and at the best of times, people can struggle with it. For two years, I didn’t talk to God at all, except for the occasional one-sided conversation with lots of four-letter words (from me, not Him, just to clarify). Not two weeks into our family’s cancer journey I met four-year-old Betsy with an inoperable brain tumor. She had wasted away to nearly nothing, which is why her Strawberry Shortcake backpack that held her itty bitty oxygen tank nearly pulled her over. And that same day, some well-meaning moron told me just to pray for Grant because God works in mysterious ways. Really? I am pretty sure I mumbled “fuck off” under my breath and walked away. Even an army of the faithful couldn’t have helped me find Him in Betsy’s Strawberry Shortcake backpack that day.
Speaking of faith …
Struggling to know God in times of grief makes you human. He doesn’t judge, so you shouldn’t either. I found my way back. And I believe that faith isn’t supposed to be easy. If it was, wouldn’t everybody have it?
“I know what you are going through.”
Nope, it is doubtful you have a fucking clue. And that’s okay. If your friend lost their spouse, maybe you can’t relate exactly to this because you haven’t. But what you can do is love them and listen. That is what they need you to do.
Not saying anything at all.
This is way worse than saying stupid shit. People accept that when you say stupid shit, you mean well. And they love you for trying. But not acknowledging their grief is lame. It belittles their feelings. Makes them feel their grief isn’t important. And the people in this situation think that you, if you choose to take this approach, are the one uncomfortable with it. So try this instead, “This sucks and I am so sorry. I love you, and let me know when you need someone to talk to.” Just say that. And then hug them. And walk away before you start nervously spouting stupid shit. Which is exactly what I did at a funeral for a little boy named Gabe that lost his battle with leukemia. I tried so hard to say the right things to his mom, my friend Michelle, that I blabbed all kinds of nonsensical shit that wasn’t helpful at all. And then I cried so hard I dry-heaved in the church’s bathroom. Not one of my best moments. I could have used a “stupid shit” intervention myself, so be grateful I am giving you this one for free.