Yesterday I told you about my new friend, Wendy and her cancer diagnosis. Today, I am going to talk about how we react to bad news.
While at work last week, I received a Facebook private message from Wendy. “Bad news…I have breast cancer…”
After I let the message sit there for a couple of minutes, gathering my wits about me, I replied with this: “I’m so sorry” and “you will be okay” and “let me know if there is anything I can do.” Not very original and kinda stupid. Probably not the best words to say to someone who is suffering a traumatic event. And that was AFTER I gathered my wits.
Then a couple of days later she PM’ed me with this, among other things, “…take samples from my lymph nodes to make sure it has not spread…”
“I’ll keep you in my prayers, hoping it didn’t spread,” was my response. Really? How stupid. Keeping someone in their prayers is totally acceptable and comforting. But hoping it didn’t spread? That goes without saying. It just wasn’t necessary.
Whatever. I’m awkward in these kinds of situations. Some people have the gift. I do not. When God was handing out Common Sense, I thought he said “Be All Dense,” and I didn’t get in line.
But, I have to ask. Is there really a “right” thing to say? I think we are so concerned about what to say, how to react, that we wind up saying the wrong thing anyway. Basically, you can’t win.
A long time ago, a friend of a family member had a miscarriage. She was very far along in her pregnancy. When I heard the news, my heart broke for her. I was already a mother at the time and I couldn’t even begin to fathom it. But I knew when I saw her, I would be awkward. And I was.
“Oooh yeah, umm, sorry about the baby.” Followed by a literal cringe on my face. A cringe, as if I was trying to hold in a fart. I walked away feeling like the biggest asshole. I froze. I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t want to NOT acknowledge it. I was afraid she would think I was cold.
Instead, I made myself look more like an ice princess, like I didn’t care, when in actuality I did. Very much so. Although it has been many years, I feel like every time I see this woman, that is what she remembers.
And when I go to a wake? Fuhgettaboutit. I’m a bumbling idiot. I’ve decided to just say the generic speech that goes like this, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Done. Over. No room for error. Then go sit in a chair at the back of the room and be there. Because that’s really all anyone ever wants. For you to just be there.
When The Kid was hit by a car, there were many people who expressed their concern. They were all wonderful, with a little awkwardness thrown in here and there, but I knew they meant well.
One woman actually said something like this, “geez, that would have been awful if she died because you don’t have any other children.” This is not verbatim, but close.
That one made me laugh out loud in disbelief. Then I remembered that people are just weird and awkward in these situations. I can’t even blame her. I’m sure, like the fart-face I made at the lady who lost her baby, she didn’t mean for it to sound so callous. I’m sure she was coming from a good place. Besides, if I really judged her, it would be like me living in a glass house and throwing stones. Or being a pot and calling a kettle black. Get it? I don’t have the right.
So, what have I decided to do in these situations? Pray to the good Lord above that I don’t throw up crap. That’s all I can do. And if I do sound like a bumbling asshole? I apology in advance for what my mouth does. I swear I have no control. My heart and tongue just aren’t always on the same page.
In the meantime, my friend Wendy is going to get this big, ugly mo-fo of a “C” word out of her and she’s going to fight it. How do I know? Because although I’ve not known her for a long time, I get that she is tough as nails. She can hold her own. If I was walking in a dark alley with her and we were mugged, I get the feeling she’d kick some serious ass and save the day while I lay in a puddle, shriveling up and pooping myself. Yeah. I would definitely poop myself.
So, to continue the theme from yesterday…here is my #MyLeftBoob pic for @WendiPopRock. Let’s get it trending for her y’all.
And next time you say something stupid when someone gives you bad news, brush it off and go buy a card. Because card companies actually PAY people to be appropriate and smart. Then go sit by your friend’s side. She will appreciate it.