If anyone were to ask me what love meant to me when I was in high school, without giving it a second thought ,I would say, having a friend who would help me with my homework, a buddy who would always be there for me no matter what, but most importantly a friend who would not backbite about me when the going gets tough.
Now that I'm much older, I would say that love is service. Serving others through my words, actions and time. If you're someone like me, who likes to fix everything, keep people happy and generally don't like to be put in an awkward situation you would know it can be both good and bad.
Have you ever walked into a place and you could sense that there's an elephant in the room and because you don't like to bottle things up you just say the first thing that comes into your mind? At first, what you've said might not feel wrong to you but after careful examination when you're all alone you'll discover that you should have just kept quiet after all. Other times, you might find yourself apologizing for not thinking before speaking.
We would also add that love is giving yourself permission to think thoroughly before speaking. It is no longer news that life has its ups and downs and no one is exempted from its challenges.
These challenges can come in different forms from loved ones losing their unborn child, parents losing their jobs, a pet loss and many more. When the people we care about are going through this phase of life, we might be quick to want to say something that could disrupt the elephant in the room like "it's going to be okay" but we know in a situation like amputation for instance, that major change in a person's life is never going to be the same.
So, saying such is not right and belittling of that situation. For the listener, it means don't worry your leg is going to grow back in a few months. Rather, it is preferable to say, "I really can't imagine how you feel but I promise to hold your hands through this."
Other times is just giving a hug and allow him/her vent about their feelings without interrupting. Also, it will be unfair to also compare one person's predicament to another because this doesn't make the situation any better. The fact that you know someone else who went through a similar situation and got over it quickly doesn't give us the right to bring it up at the moment.
Trying to make other people get over their problems in a flash could lead to a strain in that relationship, because the listener feels there is a total disregard for what they are going through.
For instance, when you go to a hospital to visit a close friend who just survived an accident and as soon as you step in, he/she starts crying, it might sound right to just say, "At least you're okay." This might sound sympathetic to you but it's not because the trauma he/she has had to endure from that incident cannot be overemphasized especially if that was the first time experiencing such.
These are a few examples of vulnerable people that could be really hurt from careless words of sympathy.
A Woman Who Had a Miscarriage
When a woman loses her baby, she goes through different emotions like guilt. The guilt of not protecting her baby and the feeling of disappointment she might be to her husband. It's bad enough she is already sad so why add salt to the injury. Here are some statements you should never say to a woman who had a miscarriage.
"I'm sure it was for the best."
"Everything happens for a reason"
"I didn't know you wanted a baby so bad."
"You complained about stomach ache just last week did you see a doctor?"
"You know untreated infection can be one of the causes."
"I know how you feel."
"It wasn't a baby just yet"
Mind you that baby was real for the mother since the day she knew she was pregnant. Also saying to her "I know how you feel" might sound empathetic but trust me, it doesn't sound anything close because you can never really imagine how she feels.
Do you know if she's having suicidal thoughts? You never know. It's best to say, "I can't imagine how you are feeling right now."
Former Destiny Child member LaTavia Roberson opened up about her miscarriage during an interview with the Sister's Circle show. She told the host that she had given her unborn child a name even before her arrival.
A Person Whose Pet Died
It is also important that we also choose our words when speaking to someone whose pet died. Making the following statement doesn't make us sound cute either.
"Your pet is in a better place."
"Look on the bright side you have other pets."
"Oh, c'mon it's just a dog."
"Just last week you told me it was a burden."
It doesn't matter how much of a burden the pet was, it was still considered family to the owner. Instead, you could say this instead to anyone grieving over a loss.
"I'm here if you ever need someone talk to."
"Take all the time you need to grief"
"I can't imagine how you might be feeling."
"Have you thought of anything I can do to help you?"
"I know you gave your best to keep your baby safe."
You can also send a note telling your friend that you've been thinking about him/her.
Another special group of people that needs our love and support are those going through depression. A
ccording to the World Health Organization, "Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression." A person who is depressed has a mood disorder that ruins their daily life. Looking from the outside in, it might look like those depressed are just been ungrateful but that's far from it.
"If you tell someone with depression that they should be grateful for what they have, it can make their depression even worse." Says Crystal Clancy, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Burnsville, MN. Depression is a real disease and just like every other illness, it needs a mental team to help the person stabilized. Mental health issues can have grave consequences when mishandled. Here are some statements that can hurt a depressed person and what to say instead.
"I'm here for you" NOT "Stop being selfish."
"You're not going crazy." NOT "The whole world has been going crazy before we got here."
"We've got this!" NOT "You think you're depressed wait till tell you my story."
"I'm not going anywhere." NOT "Your depression is pushing everyone away."
"How can I help you?" NOT "Snap out of it."
"I have no idea how you feel." NOT "You don't look depressed."
Just like a person with diabetes cannot make their bodies create insulin so it is for a depressed person. Those grieving need our love and support.
It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there because it’s not sadness. I know sadness. Sadness is to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling — that really hollowed-out feeling.
— J.K. Rowling.
Some people don't know that depression differs from sadness. With sadness it has a trigger which could be a job loss, failing an exam etc and it passes with time but with depression, the mood can last longer and the individual might not be able to get back to his/her normal day to day activities. This calls for medical assistance and encouragement. Some people are afraid to speak up about their depression because of the feeling of guilt or been misunderstood and the societal stigma that comes with it.
Let's learn to be more supportive especially when it has to do with a medical situation we barely understand. Even if we can't do much financially, our words can be a balm anytime and anywhere. So let's choose our words wisely.