Recently on Facebook I watched a couple of friends experience pain and not a small amount of sorrow when–after going through serious illnesses with their families–they were met with really appalling rudeness from friends and family members.

Not from internet trolls.

Which leads me to wonder if the —-supportive responses like:

  • People are HORRIBLE!!!
  • What a B-!!!
  • I’d never talk to that person again and you definitely shouldn’t!
  • How rude!

and that sort if thing, are really appropriate either?

Now, if the rudeness came from a stranger or even from a vague acquaintance-type person, I’d be right in the middle of the dogpile. But friends? Family?

What the what?!

Maybe it’s because my son gets easily judgy. Maybe it’s because my head’s been hurting so bad for so long I’m just in a stupidly compassionate state, but I’m wondering if the rudeness comes not from cruelty but from lack of words.

To clarify:
My younger son, when he was very little, would get upset and speechless. Or he’d get into trouble for pushing another kid instead of “using his words”—which seemed odd because my kids are (surprise) nothing if not verbal.
When he got into these situations, I started asking, “would you like some words to use if this happens again?” He was always relieved, practiced the phrases we recommended, and his kerfuffles lessened.

When thinking about the visiting-a-chemo-patient-and-starting-by-greeting-them-with-“Gawd you look like hell!” stories I’m left wondering if this isn’t just someone being overwhelmed and not having access to the right words?

In America, as my husband who worked in Slovakia has mentioned, we keep the infirm, the deformed, the slow, and the ugly well-hidden. Look at how much we spend on making our teeth regular and white. Lots.

Anyway. I’m wondering if we aren’t just too far apart too much of the time. Too many screens and too few faces. I don’t know of many kids going to Cotillion or Ticktockers or etiquette classes. If we never see anyone ill, if we don’t grow up learning how to pay a sick visit or support someone after a death, then where do we get those words from? How are we supposed to know?

Y’got me.

But then I thought maybe we could crowd source a list of things to say when someone is hurting. Just to get over the hump. I’m an expert in open-mouth-insert-foot… But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve.

Have you ever been struck by someone’s grace under this kind of pressure?
What did they say?

Please share.
I’d love to learn!

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