They range from downright stupid to downright cutting. When we lost our baby to the ruptured tubal a phone call to the hospital room went as follows:
“Hello Melissa. How are you?”
“I’m as well as can be expected. Quite a bit of pain from the surgery. And grieving of course.”
“Well, the baby was probably deformed or retarded so that’s why God took it.”
I hung up.
All of us have heard the comments.
“It was for the best.”
“You can always have more.”
“At least you already have a child.”
“All things work together for good.”
“At least your child is no longer suffering.”
“The fact you had a miscarriage shows you can at least get pregnant.”
Sometimes they make us shake our head in wonder, sometimes they anger us, and they almost always hurt.
Why do people even say these things?
1. People truly don’t understand your situation. They have never been through your grief and haven’t thought about what it would feel like if they were.
We can’t know what we would do until we were in a specific situation. While people should think through a scenario and how they might feel, they often don’t. And in this lack of thought, they speak.
2. Their own hearts are deceived about their strength and spirituality, when they do try to think what they might do if it were them.
This is something to pity them for, because when their day of grief comes, their world will be rocked more than they ever thought possible. They may crumble completely, as everything they think they are founded on, falls apart. When they speak words like, “God knew best” or “All things work together for good”, the day may come for them, when they realize that they don’t believe these themselves, because in light of their tragedy, they simply can not find the faith to believe anymore. At this
point, they will need someone, who understands, to come beside them. Be that person, even when you are tempted to return evil for evil.
3. They truly believe their own words, based on their own level of experience and worldview.
Lack of grief sometimes brings a lack of depth. They believe their clichés because they’ve never been tested.
4. They do not know how to handle your pain, so the words they use are an attempt to make themselves feel better or to justify why it happened in their own mind.
Sometimes what we go through is so painful, people just don’t to comprehend it. They use words to attempt to make the situation not seem so raw and harsh. They don’t want to grasp the painful reality of your grief so they mask it with triviality.
5. They honestly have no clue what to say, feel awkward with silence, try to say something, and mess it up.
And then they go home and beat themselves up because they know they screwed up. I’ve done it before in areas other than infertility and loss. Some know they said the wrong thing, they just don’t know how to make it right. They may feel that bringing it back up, even to apologize, might make it worse.
6. They have their own pain they haven’t addressed, and if they felt yours they’d have to feel theirs, so they remain calloused.
Anger is easier for the hurting heart that won’t heal and so is hardening. If they soften with compassion and tears for your grief, they will begin feeling their own grief. And that is too risky. So they stay behind their toughness, and while doing so, avoid words of comfort.
Fielding the comments
1. Realize that some truly feel bad about what they said and how they said it.
Give grace. Realize that some people simply don’t know what to say and they stumble over their words, even while they long with all their heart to speak the right ones. Remember that you have most likely lacked tact at some point as well.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Romans 15:1
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15
For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. James 3:2
2. Use boundaries where needed.
When the comments are coming from people who are calloused and cold because of their own unresolved grief and anger in life, it is okay to keep boundaries, until your heart is not so tender. There is a time for grief, there is a time for keeping distant. Sometimes a season of distance is needed, not only for heart protection for yourself, but also the protection of another, because in our raw grief, we are not able to field their comments appropriately and in our hurt, cause even more hurt with our response. *
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; Ecclesiasties 3:1-4,7b
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
3. God is our shield. Picture Him in front of your heart, deflecting all hurtful words and comments.
The mental picture of God in front of us a shield taking the comments for us, can be precious imagery. Allow the comments to first pass through Him, deflecting their pain and sometimes, even cruelty.
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30
4. Run the comments to Jesus
Run to Him, cast them into His hands, tell them how much they hurt and then, ask Him to redeem the painful emotions they bring out. That redemption may be a new compassion in our own hearts for those hurting. It may be a new understanding of His heart that aches for His children.
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants. Psalm 135:14
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
5. Use the opportunity to educate and create awareness regarding the situation in your life.
Because some people don’t know, depending on where you are in your journey, this may be a great time to help them view the perspective of grief, as it pertains to the issue at hand. It may be as simple as saying something like, “When you tell me it’s time to be over it, how long do you think it’d take you to get over it if you lost (insert child’s name)?” Or ask if they lost one child, would it be okay since they have another one? Obviously, this needs to be done in a kind way, lacking sarcasm that is so easy to insert into these statements. Just remember not to waste your breath on someone, who doesn’t want to listen.
Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge. Proverbs 19:25
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Proverbs 18:2
6. Pray for those that hurt you
The Bible is clear on this. Pray that God would do a work in their heart so that they can have a heart of compassion that learns to weep with those who weep and have God’s heart for those who are hurting. Having compassion and truly grieving with those who grieve are gifts from God, and God can do a mighty work so that they become people who do this.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:43-45
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mark 11:25
*A great resource on when boundaries are appropriate is Boundaries: When to Say No by Cloud and Townsend.
Original material by Melissa J Carswell, MA, BCCC. Holly M Besser. Perfect Joy Ministries ©2012. May not be used or re-printed without permission. bsbp017p12-13-12