A person very close to me is going through some incredibly tough times.  I’ve struggled of late, trying to separate out my own fears and being there as a strong friend and supporter.  At first I kept thinking, “Why is this happening?”  Then, I started to examine my own responses and realized that I was more focused on how it was affecting me.  Sometimes I (maybe we?) can totally miss the boat!

So, my question is: “How should I respond and what should I do when someone tells me sad news?”  Here’s my “direction” to myself:

First: Stop talking and listen. Then listen more.  Actually, I’m just going to shut my mouth totally!

Second: Believe their feelings.  Don’t ask too many questions.  If there’s a story, just trust the facts.  The more the person trusts me the more likely they are to tell me the whole truth.  I can’t expect someone who is in the middle of a bad situation to have a perfect perspective or be logical in a way that satisfies me.  Assume that this is not about me (and don’t make it that way).

Third: Say something like “I’m so sorry you are going through that – it’s terrible”  And then ask, “How are you going to handle this?” or “What are you going to do next.”  Then listen again.  Maybe they don’t know what to do next.  That’s ok.  Don’t tell them what to do unless they actually ask for help!  They want an ear, not a solver of their problems.  Remind them that you can be a good distraction too!

I’ve had my own fair share of not-so-good experiences.  And, I’ve often wondered if these problems then define who I am .  But let’s be honest – there is no way we have to be defined by the “things” that happen to us.   Nor should we allow ourselves to be defined by our childhood or the mistakes we make along the way.

We create the definition of who we are.

We are defined by how we handle our lives, our past experiences and our present mistakes.  We are defined by how we treat others in our time of need and how we emerge from life’s challenges and how we grow from it all.  

So, my friend, I am so sorry this is happening.  But, you are the essence of grace and strength.  You are resolute that you will come through this with a more beautiful perspective on life than ever before.  And, I agree.  I’m looking forward to being a part of the whole (sometimes painful) process.


Have a wonderful weekend everyone!