Thursday, April 17, 2014

Never Should You Ever Say These 5 Things

This post's been sitting around in Drafts for a while. Mostly because I never felt like there was a good time to say it. Then, I realized, sometimes we have to talk about things that are awkward and, really, awkward never seems to have an appropriate time except in the month where vulnerability is central. So, let's delve into awkward, shall we?

My dad is dying. No surprise to you or me. But what is surprising? The way people react to the news. I've come to realize it doesn't make a difference how long or short someone's known the crazy, unfortunate circumstances we're wading through, there are wonderful reactions and painful cliches. In an effort to make you the former and not the latter, I've decided it's time to share how not to react by giving you 5 things never should you ever say these to someone who's losing a parent (or possibly even a spouse of sister or brother or child or friend). My hope is next time someone's dying, losing, diagnosed, you'll hear me whispering sweetly "say the right thing or say nothing and hold hands."

So then, we agree, this post should be titled: 
5 Things to Never Say to Someone who's Parent (or family member or friend) is Dying.

1. God won't give you more than you can handle. 
Surely, He won't. But life will. Especially life lived in a broken and chaotic world like ours. And, He provides strength and peace and hope, but you know what doesn't do so: cliches. Plus, what growth happens in the average? None. So, life has handed my family WAY TOO DAMN MUCH and, thankfully, God has handed us more than that. But don't even begin to think any of this is manageable or normal or easy, breezy, beautiful.

2. Your (fill in relational blank here too) will get through this. 
(This is more specific to dementia, but think it through before you try and offer impossible hope.) 
Actually, he won't. Dementia isn't something you conquer or fight or recover from, but thanks any way. If you don't know anything about dementia and/or Alzheimer's or any disease that someone in your life is diagnosed with please ask questions instead of saying things that are actually 100% impossible. Not only do I feel morbid correcting you that dementia is always fatal, but I also feel like a snot when you realize you've said something dumb. Sure, the mistaken optimism could open the door for a strong belly laugh -which is something I love-, but, in all honesty, there's no good response to such a statement when his disease is always terminal.

3. If it makes you feel better, my dad's an asshole.
First, this doesn't make me feel better. Second, are you implying that I'm avoiding possible Asshole Dad by losing him? Third, this actually breaks my heart because I spent a few years in high school thinking my dad was a no-good, all-mean dad only to realize he cared deeply for me and loved me sincerely but struggled with how to communicate that to my hormone-riddled brain. So, no, don't console me using your Asshole Dad, go home and humble yourself to have a relationship with him because, just maybe, he won't be around forever and chances are, he loves you deeply and sincerely but doesn't know how to show it.

4. I mean, I know I'm not losing my dad, but... (in reference to any tough situation in one's life)
Never do I ever want to be the pity case or the girl who's got it worse than everyone else because, in all honesty, no one likes those kind of people. Your hurts hurt regardless of how trivial they might seem when compared to mine. I know money troubles suck, kids can be tough, work can drain us of all we have. Those things suck and hurt and no one wants them. So, let's make friends through the pain instead of making it weird by comparing whose life is the hurtingest.

5. Tell me everything so I can pray for you the right way.
Mostly this just makes me think you're nosey. When I'm really struggling the prayer is for strength, hope, peace, an awareness of His presence. None of those blessings hinge on how much Popsicle weighs or if he recognizes me (he doesn't) or when I'm headed to visit him next. Please for the sake of ugly-cry-avoidance, Popsicle's dignity, and our family privacy pray earnestly on our behalf knowing that He's got a handle on what we need most.

The lucky thing about making it through the five stages of awkward that's brought us to this point in the blog post is a prize. You get yourself a completely original, free-of-charge BONUS THING NOT TO SAY! 

6. You know, his body is healthy, he can live for decades.
If I had a quarter for every time someone said this to us I'd have no problem doing our 4 weekly loads of laundry at the laundromat for years to come. The intention is sweet in saying this, but we are exhausted -emotionally, physically, spiritually. Don't wish forever on us. PLEASE.

4 Things You Should Say
1. Shit that sucks. 
Because it does. And there are no words to describe the suckiness but that it sucks worse than a Hoover vacuum that's mated with a black hole in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.

2. I can't even imagine how this feels for you.
Right. You can't. Just like I can't imagine the way your hurts feel for you. And, that's okay, the important part is that we're still participating in one another's lives regardless of how similar or different they might be.

3. Want a drink? A pedicure? To watch the Real Housewives?
Not that booze is going to solve this or that my comfort resides in the bottom of a bubbling bath for my feet, but more to say: life goes on, let's be normal. Because sometimes the last thing that life feels like is normal anymore so you treating me normal, enjoying happy hour and appetizers with me, partaking in pedicures served with Starbucks and gossip magazines, remind me that it's all normal still.

4. How is your dad? And how are you? 
Usually he's the same. Usually I'm not. And, sometimes this means I'll cry my eyes out, others I'll make a twisted joke and we'll continue on our merry Girls' Night Out way. Sometimes I feel stuck in a glass case of emotional turmoil and, quite frankly, others I'm obliviously enjoying the day in full denial of how hard all this loss is; regardless, it feels nice to know you care.

53 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry :( I actually posted a blog today, too about my Dad. Not Alzheimer's, so I won't pretend to understand. But not doing well, so I can empathize. Shit, this sucks. :/

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  2. I could not agree more with this post. As someone's who's grandfather died from Alzheimer's, I agree with every last point written here. Although I can't say from experience because Alzheimer's is really the only disease I've had to deal with in my life, I can say that it is one of the toughest diseases around. You have to sit back and watch someone who is physically healthy, but mentally not there. I don't think there is anything harder than someone you love more than anything not knowing who you are and nothing anyone can say will fix that. So you're right - people should just step back and be empathetic and not insert their feelings or opinions into the situation. GREAT POST!

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  3. I just want to give you a big hug. Because this shit does suck.

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  4. Shit, that sucks. I would love to get a drink, have a chat and hug the shit out of you. Because that's what friends do and weeezzzz friends yo.

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  5. Brittany RasmussenApril 17, 2014 at 6:19 AM

    My heart aches for you friend, but I am proud of your ability to open up and be real in this space. You are loved.

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  6. This can apply to so many circumstances. I'm glad you included things TO say. Can you enlighten me - how do "I am so sorry you're going through this" and "I'll be thinking of you and your family" rank on the scale? Seriously, because those are my go-to phrases (and I mean them) but if they come across badly, I want to change! I know sorry is a poor choice of words but what would be more accurate?


    And seriously, shit, that sucks. You handle it (online, at least) with an amazing amount of grace.

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  7. this is so helpful, although i hope you didn't get too much post-terrible-response anger while writing this. because i think that dealing with the crappy responses one time without reliving them would be more than i could handle. which is why you're you and not me, because you have the grace that a lot of us wish we could have. lots of love to you my little one.

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  8. This post says so much! Not only legit advice on what not and what to say in a difficult situation, but it also reflects your strength and honesty in how you're dealing with the daily trials of this crap-tastic situation. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. I would like to know your response to this as well. When friends are in tough situations, I always offer hugs and ask if I can pray for them, but it's hard to know what to say, so I appreciate your post. I'm sorry this is happening to your family. Shit that sucks.

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  10. Katie @ A Beautiful Little AdvApril 17, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    Hugs! I can't imagine how hard it must have been to hit "publish" on this one. You are so awesome at showing your true self. I'm an email away if you ever feel like venting about the shitty things. I can't imagine ever going through what you go through on a daily basis.

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  11. Hi. I think you're awesome.


    You're doing a wonderful thing by sharing this. And if we were local, I'd gladly take you out for multiple cocktails and all the pedicures in the land.


    Hearts & Hugs and all that cliche stuff.
    xoxo

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  12. This is a post that will always be useful...it humbled me to read this and makes me want to be a better friend, a better listener and to think before I speak...Beautifully written!

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  13. theblahblahblahgerApril 17, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    My grandpa who just passed had dementia and it was a horrible disease that robbed us of him long before his body shut down. Shit, it DOES suck. I think of you often and am proud of you for sharing this.

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  14. I can somewhat relate to this, girl. My dad passed away almost 2 years ago after he lost his battle with cancer. It is awkward, the way people reacted once they knew he was going down hill. It really does suck.

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  15. Perhaps it's the fact that I've lost so many loved ones in my life already, but thankfully I have never said any of those first 6 items to someone going through something difficult. Typically, my response is that I'm so very sorry and in cases like this, it's that I truly have no idea the amount of pain that you and your family are going through.
    And to you, I will say shit, that really does suck. And you and your entire family will be in my prayers. I know nothing of the pain that you have gone through and are still going through and I am just so sorry that life has dealt you this hand :(

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  16. Oh I could not agree with you more. It really does suck, and sucks even worse when people just say all the wrong things.

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  17. This does suck. I think people try really hard to relate, or to use humor to ease the pain of a situation, and don't always understand how flat it's gonna fall when someone is going through an incredibly awful situation. I've been in a similar situation in the last year and a few friends have told me that they aren't sure if I want them to ask about it (e.g. "How is your dad, how are you?") or if I'll just talk about it when I'm ready--I think it really helps to give suggestions like you did above for empathetic ways to check in. I always appreciate when someone asks, even if I don't want to talk about it right then.

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  18. such wisdom for friends who are going through hard times.
    "shit that sucks" and "I can't even imagine" are my go-to's.
    I did youth counselling for a while and you learn what does, and doesn't work.
    Sorry you have had to endure so many bad responses.

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  19. Amber, I'm so sorry. My heart just hurts for you. If we lived closer, I'd come over with drinks, give you a big hug, and then we'd spend the rest of the night reading through a stack of gossip mags, eating junk food.

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  20. I always feel like I never have the words to make people feel better, but when it comes to losing someone you love, it isn't really the words that matter, but the presence and the love of the people around you that is the most comforting.

    So with that, I would like to tell you that I know I don't have all the words, but what I do have is an open ear and a shoulder to cry on if you ever need it.

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  21. You remember that post of mine today about inspiring Blogland ladies? THIS is why you make the list. You are so raw and honest and somehow, humorous at the same time. I often wish I had just an ounce of your grace and poise and courage. One glorious day, I will finally be able to meet you in person, and we'll talk and cry and laugh and get pedicures to our heart's content! Promise.


    -Kate
    www.theflorkens.com

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  22. You bring tears to my eyes darling. Tons of Hugs {mixed with some wine} ;-)

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  23. ugh, yes and yes. I know that people are generally well intentioned but I couldn't believe some of the things people said to me before my father passed away.


    while I couldn't possibly imagine how you are feeling in your situation, I know it feels to watch a father die. So I'm around to chat (or just listen) / a drink / real housewlves if you'd like. Sending so much love your way.

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  24. You have the biggest heart and you are handling a life-altering experience with such grace, even when you break down. I can't imagine how this feels for you even though I lost my granddad to this disease and we have my grandmom going through this now. I can't imagine the process of losing a father to this disease. If we lived in the same area I would gladly come by for wine and appetizers to talk about totally normal things or cry about this heartbreaking disease and the all consuming panic that strikes whenever you think about the possibility that it's genetic. My heart goes out to you. <3


    I will now end this novel of a comment with a mean girls quote (because mean girls): "I wish that I could bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles, and we'd all eat it and be happy"

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  25. As a person who puts her foot in her mouth way more often then normal people, even I can say I don't think I would ever say those things. I'm so sorry you/your dad/your family is dealing with this. I can't imagine how hard that must be. <3

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  26. Love you, friend. Know that!!!!!!!

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  27. The very first post I read of yours was one about your dad, and I've always related and appreciated your vulnerability and your heart. So many people are well intentioned but really need to read this post! Wish I could take you out for pedicures, margs, and chips n salsa and chat with you for hours with our boxes of Kleenex! Xoxo!!

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  28. thank you for sharing! i never know what to say when someone is stricken by tragedy. and i am so sorry about your dad. i'm not saying this just because it is lifted above, but i really just can't even image what you are going through.

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  29. Yep. Agreed. Grandma has dementia and it sucks and I hate it. Thanks for sharing this.

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  30. Oh Samantha, thank you for sharing your experience and affirming mine. This memory loss is so scary and weird and foreign (always) so sometimes the feelings and opinions can add such a challenging element to an already (so) trying time!

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  31. Affirmation is obviously your spiritual gift.

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  32. Yes, sorry is always helpful and easy to reply to without insane tears... :) Instead of I'll be thinking of you, offer yourself as a sounding board. Like: Please know I'm always here to be the ear you need or the shoulder to cry on. It says, I'm thinking of you, but feels more personal. And, of course, opens up the door to conversation, but isn't invasive. (Does this make any sense?)


    And, you are so kind to me. It's not a hand I ever thought life would deal, but it's best to make the best of it. :)

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  33. Allie, I responded a bit above. For prayer: I'd make it specific like: please know i'm praying for His grace in the ugliness/hardness/dark of this situation (use whichever word seems to be best suited). Sometimes just knowing someone is praying for something in particular helps to feel like you've got it... :)

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  34. You are so dear to me. So dear. There was lots of back and forth, back and forth about when, why, what while writing. But, like always, brave words were met with pure sweetness.

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  35. Crap-tastic. LOVE. That's the perfect way to say it. :)

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  36. Drinks, drinks, dranks. Followed by flower on the toes. :) 'Scuse me I'm just prepping myself for #WCW right meow.

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  37. Thank you so much for seeing the heart and hearing my voice. Thank you. Being better friends and listeners is hard... especially in a difficult time, but it's so valuable for all the things in our lives.

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  38. Oh dear. How ugly a disease for not only the sufferer, but all of the family that is dealing with the loss carries their own bit of heartache and hardship. Poor gramps. And family. Thank goodness he is healed.


    And, of course, your thoughts and pride warm my ever-loving heart.

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  39. YES. I was hoping that people would read it and say, this applies to my life even if it's not my dad who's sick. YES. You, once again, just GET it.

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  40. Thank you Jamie. How grateful I am for friends who understand the sadness that comes with loss even if it's not the same way or person or time in our lives. Especially because the emotions are so complex every time over. :) Thank you for prayers and your heart Jamie.

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  41. It is! Like hi I'm already SO emotional and then your cliches make me want to cry a whole lot. :)

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  42. Yes always appreciate the genuine effort. I realize that I'm all good if someone asks and is interested in a way that is truly, emotionally involved in the conversation because the trite little diddies make me want to scream. I'm sorry for a hard year, so sorry. But I'm glad you have those people who will ask because they care, and not skip out on it because they're "nervous". :)

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  43. Oh girl, your go-tos are golden. As are you. :)

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  44. I've tried to be really good at seeking intentions when responses just irk me... But that's not always a win! :)


    Of course I'd just melt to happy, wine-filled tears to share in housewives with your sweet soul!

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  45. Emily, you are such a precious, dear friend already. :) Of course gossip mags would make me BEYOND happy -hi People and Starr- and buttered popcorn would be the icing on the proverbial cake! :)

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  46. Yes. You've GOT it. Because the words are trivial in comparison to having a friend who's there and invested despite the difficulty of the situation. :)

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  47. This disease is surely the ugliest of diseases (though I might have a bit of a bias) and I can't imagine doing it twice over... My prayer is this is PLENTY of dosage for me! :)


    Of course I'd love having you for wine and MEAN GIRLS (since it's now on Netflix) and we'd eat smiley cake!

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  48. Girl I am the queen of foot in mouth syndrome. THE QUEEN. It's painful and, yet, a genetic trait that dying dad gave me! Darn him. :)

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  49. It sucks SO bad. But we can all work together to make it suck a little less for one another.

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  50. Lauren, the words are helpful but it's the heart that helps. Knowing that someone is invest and caring regardless of the tragedy is so helpful. I've lost a few friends to the sadness that is happens to be because it's just too much. So their prerogative, but still sad nonetheless.

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  51. CHIPS AND SALSAS.


    I know you said lots of other words but you distracted me with those three. Oh and that I love thee so dearly.

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  52. You couldn't be MORE right about this. At the end of the day, all I can truly say is that you're in my prayers. We LOVE YOU, and you can ALWAYS COUNT ON your blogging world to hear you out.

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