When Ryan was going through his cancer treatment including surgery and chemo, we had many people say many things to us. We also had some people we expected to hear from and didn’t hear anything. What meant the most to us? What did we wish people would stop saying?
What Not to Say:
- The worst was when people didn’t say anything at all, and didn’t reach out at all. They would purposely avoid us, people we thought were close family and friends and we wouldn’t receive a phone call, text or personal message – those were the hardest to take. We would ask “Do they know?” and yes, they knew. I get it. These are the ones that were so afraid to say the wrong thing, they thought it was better to say nothing at all. They were wrong. Anything is better than nothing at all.
- “If you need anything, just let me know.” It’s an empty promise because we would never call on someone to fulfill a vague promise. If you want to help, be specific and offer something you can follow through on. A meal, help with the kids, a shoulder to cry on, someone to pray with.
- “You’re so brave/strong.” Please stop saying this. We are not brave. We are not strong. We were faced with a situation that we had zero control over and we did what was expected of us. I wasn’t brave or strong as I continued to function by feeding the kids, running the household and going to work full-time. I sometimes felt like a complete coward escaping to work every day where I didn’t have to stare sickness and death in the face. And feeling so helpless that one more piece of bad news would send me spiraling out of control. And if I did? If I completely lost it and decided to hide under the covers and not deal with it all? That wasn’t a choice. You just keep going. One foot in front of the other, doing what is expected of you. It’s not strength or bravery, it’s auto-pilot and God’s direction alone. And Ryan? He sure didn’t feel brave or strong as he was poked with IV’s and needles daily and then lay on the couch or slept in bed feeling like the living dead day after day. But he stuck out his arm, took the chemo and then dealt with the side effects. What was the alternative? Lay down and cry and just let the cancer take over? Not much of a choice.
- “You’ll be fine.” Really? Right now I don’t feel very fine and I don’t see the feeling of “fine” in the near future. I’m leaving it in the hands of an Almighty God and know that He will take care of me. But please don’t say I’ll be fine or everything will be alright.
Instead,What To Say:
- Ah – here’s the tricky part. Sometimes, nothing at all. Sometimes a hug or a quick side squeeze while you fight the tears yourself is enough. But something to show that you’re thinking and praying for us. Sometimes, that was more than enough.
- “I’m dropping off dinner for you tonight. What time is good for you?” Specific promises with very specific deliverables were well-received. Knowing you wouldn’t take no for an answer took the burden off us to think of the perfect way for you to help.
- “We love you.” That meant a lot to us. To know that you care and you will be there for us as we face this new world of unknowns.
- “We are praying for you.” When this is heartfelt and truthful, it means the world to us. That you are acting as intercessors on our behalf between this world and the King of the World, what more can we really ask for?