What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger and other bollocks

We’ve all been there. A bereaved friend, a relative experiencing trauma or a colleague diagnosed with a serious illness. What can you say that conveys your feelings without sounding trite or worse, causing offence?

Let me share with you three things you should avoid saying at all costs and the one thing you definitely should.

Don’t say…

1. Everything happens for a reason

There is surely no divine plan that involves pain and suffering for an apparent, unnamed gain? A plan where only adversity is the path for growth. I didn’t need a life lesson that taught me metal is stronger than flesh and I have yet to gain any dazzling insights into my life’s purpose.
All the things that have happened since the accident would have been greatly improved by having fully functioning limbs and a brain unscrambled by kinetic force.

2. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

No it doesn’t.
What doesn’t kill you, fractures you, weakens you, makes you fearful where once you were fearless. You may be pieced back together so skilfully that the cracks are no longer visible to the naked eye, but those hidden faultlines remain. Your vulnerability has been exposed to merciless light and the knowledge of what lies beneath can never be forgotten. It might not be the literal death of you but it is most certainly the death of the person you once were.

3. You were just unlucky

Good things may happen, bad things may happen, but I’m pretty sure the universe couldn’t care less about the fate of one individual, never mind, skew the odds in their favour. To imply a cosmic roll of the dice is actually quite a terrifiying prospect for someone who has had their lives turned upside down unexpectedly. If it is all just down to luck, really what can we do to protect ourselves from future harm?

Do say…

Searching for the right words can leave people paralysed with the fear of saying the wrong thing, so much that they say nothing at all. They turn away from the trauma, not because they do not care, but that they do not know how to adequately convey that they do.

What do you say to the person numb with grief, their life shattered, their shoulders weighed down with the burden of illness or injury?

Simply,

“I see you, I hear your pain and I am sorry for it. You are still a person that matters in this world and I will be right here by your side.”

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