Today I heard that a close family friend passed away after a decade long battle with cancer. In addition,two other family friends are seriously ill! I start emails and letters but as I start to write I am frozen. Words of comfort? What do you say when ‘I’m sorry’ sounds so trite?
Comforting friends in crisis is something I think I’m pretty good at. Whether it’s marital struggles, divorce, death, illness or depression, I am a good listener and I constantly try to help my friends on their terms (not everyone wants to be fixed).But there are only so many ways to say ‘I’m sorry for your trouble.’ Is that enough?
I had a similar discussion with a young cancer patient this summer. Diagnosed at 31 with stage 3 Breast Cancer, this woman was inundated with support and love, blankets and hats. She has been amazing throughout the worst of her treatments (17 chemo treatments ended this week). She wrote thoughtful thank you notes and posts on Caring Bridge. She never forgot to thank people for their support. I spent time helping her with her two young children last summer and we talked about how ‘meaningless’ words become when they are often repeated. I mean, how many ways can you think of to say ‘thank you’?
We agreed that each time we say ‘thank you’ or ‘I’m sorry’ the recipient is different, so that for them it is a first time.
Nevertheless, I struggle with words of comfort. I don’t want to sound like a Hallmark card. I’ve taken to using inspirational quotes as I close emails and letters. So as I struggle to say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ or ‘I am so sorry you’ve been ill’ I try to close with something that gives peace and a smile.
Recently, I’ve used :
“Happiness is no more than good health and a bad memory.”
– Albert Schweitzer
“Find a place inside where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
“Believe you can and you are half-way there.”
and because I love Erma Bombeck,
“If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.”
Until next time!
In Memory of Janet Jacobson; friend, cousin, hero.