I last left you people with the story of Clark’s diagnosis.
When you receive a life-changing diagnosis, you cannot explain how it rocks you. For Clark, the diagnosis was actually a relief because of the months building to that moment. The hard part was when our neurologist dropped the heavy truth-bomb that Clark was not and would not ever be “typical.” For my friend just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, it was the moment of diagnosis. I am absolutely wrecked with their news. I love this person and their family so, so much. I want to take away all the hurt and fix the situation–hello, nurse over here 👋
Y’all, I’m going to get serious for a minute and tell you all the things I’ve learned from my personal experience about dealing with someone’s heavy stuff.
- They are hurting. Like run-over-by-a-mack-truck-mangled-and-gasping-for-air kind of hurting. Life-changing news actually takes your breath away. That’s not just a saying. The affected party actually struggles to get enough oxygen with their breaths because it feels as if their lungs are stupid and are not cooperating. Do not delegitimatize this level of hurt. Don’t say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” That’s some bullshit and is completely unhelpful.
- Now, if you do love them, you’ve got to let them hurt. Let ’em. You don’t have to have the magical words to make them feel better because *spoiler alert* you cannot make them feel better with any words. Let them tell you how destroyed they are. Let them tell you their life is falling apart. Let them ugly cry. Yes, I know it can be totally uncomfortable when they are sniffing and dripping their own snot with their swollen, red, blotchy-faces. Just let it happen again and again if they need it.
- DO NOT SAY “I’m here if you need anything!” Look, Brenda, they do not know how to tell you what they do not know they desperately need. Instead, just try being there. Send the note, text, email, letter, gift, package. Tell them, “I’m thinking of you, and I love you.” Show up with all of your inadequate words and your Mawmaw’s casserole that uses two cans of Cream of Chicken soup. Just show the hell up.
- Also, don’t ask “How are you?” And follow it up with “but you’re okay, right?” They aren’t good. That’s a given. Instead say, “This sucks, and I’m here. Want to talk? Want a drink?” Let them know that you know the situation is messed up, the future is uncertain, but you are there for all of it. I promise this means more than “Oh how are you?”
- They are not the same anymore. Acknowledge that, but love them anyway. Keep inviting them to every function even if they never show up. Know that they have been forever changed, but also let them know that you don’t care. Be the friend you want to have when your life is wrecked, because one day it will be.
- Treat them like a human without the kid gloves. Nothing will piss a person off faster than being treated like a fragile piece of glass. If you regularly text the person pictures of floating hair, aka tumbleweaves (like I do), then still do that! If you screenshot hilarious and dramatic Facebook statuses (guilty, again) don’t stop. Keep up your friendship, oddities included.
The moral of the story is to be a friend, which I think is a lost art. Truly. Think about it–we live in Facebook world where everyone is a “friend,” but that’s just not true. Not every acquaintance is your friend, and not every friendly person is a friend. You can be kind without letting everyone into your inner circle, and that’s totally okay. But if you claim the title of friend, then be a good one! Show up and stay through the hard parts. Go out of your way and love people so, so hard. Show up with the meal, write the letter, and love on people consistently and genuinely. I just cannot emphasize this point enough–Be authentic, invite your people into that inner circle, and love them aggressively.
We are not perfect people. We’re going to mess up and say and do the wrong things. So what? Do better, love harder. What everyone says about “millennials” is bull because we are hardworking, we are accepting, and we are far more genuine in our relationships than anyone gives us credit for. Let’s show them all how we’re going to change the world by eschewing the platitudes we’ve been taught and embracing authenticity, both in friendships and in life in general. Until next time, love to all. ❤