There are many things I love about blogging.  The writing, the reading, the commenting.  But there is one thing that bothers me about blogging:  commenting when someone has shared a particularly personal post.

I am rarely at a loss for words.  Few things leave me speechless (or wordless- you know that- you read my posts.)  Yet, when faced with someone’s heart and soul all over a page, I find myself with a blank space where my mind is supposed to be.  No words in my arsenal seem adequate.  How do you tell someone you’re there with them?  How do you tell someone you’re glad they shared?

First off- how do you “like” a piece that was obviously hard to write, and harder to share?  Hitting the “like” button often seems callous- you obviously don’t/can’t like the situation described.  Yet, that’s the first, and in the case of WordPress, only option.  We’re supposed to be liking a piece based on how it’s written or presented, not necessarily the subject matter.  So I “like” a piece, no matter how devastating.

But “like” is not enough.  I always feel I need to comment on these pieces.  But what do you say?

A few weeks ago, one of my blog friends told us about some health issues that were not so great.  I felt so sad for this woman, but I did not know what to say.  I simply wrote

“I am thinking of you.  I wish I had better words to say to you”

My blog friend responded and told me that my thoughts and that sentiment were better than all the other stupid things people say.

Score one for honesty and humility.

And that is the route I normally follow.  I have also said the following:

“Thank you for sharing.”

“You are very strong and I wish you hadn’t endured this situation”

“I’m sorry.”

And that’s my repertoire.  Those are the best comments I have.  They are the lines I use when I truly feel that words are inadequate, yet I feel something more is needed.

Are they enough?

This feeling of word inadequacy extends to my real life as well.  What do you say to someone who is grieving? What do you say to someone that has gone through a devastating event?

About 20 years ago, one of my closest friends lost her 3 year old son in a freak accident.  I told her “I Love you.” because really- what can I say to a Mother experiencing the most ultimate of grief?  Was there anything that was going to be the “right” thing?  Honestly, this will be the only time you ever hear me speak of this tragedy, because I’m still not over it.  I still give my friends an extra hug when I see her, and extra XO on the end of a text.  Because there is nothing to say.

I think you have to be very careful about choosing the words you use to help someone through a tough time.  I think many options, though meant in a good way, end up sounding callous or hard or inconsiderate.  I think people grieve differently, so it’s hard to know exactly what will make someone feel better, or at least make them not feel worse.  This is why I go with simplicity and brevity.  I let someone know that I’m thinking of them, because that is all the solace I can offer.  There is no magic formula to instantly rectify a lousy situation.  I wish there was.

I’m sure I will continue to struggle with finding the proper words to console someone.  I think humans are built to look for the bright side of things, so looking straight into the dark side is hard.  We want to squeeze our eyes shut and wish the tragedy away.  But we all know life doesn’t work like that.  When you open your eyes, the pain is still there.

This is dedicated to all my friends who have had a particularly tough time of late.  I’m thinking of you.

105 thoughts on “What can I say?

  1. Lovely.

    It takes a special kind of commitment to bare your soul on the internet. Sometimes I wonder, did she write this because no one is around whom she can talk to? I too feel compelled to say something just to make her feel less alone, because I get it.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. I typically do not “like” a personal post such as you describe, but do send a short comment along the lines of what you describe. I want to acknowledge the difficulties/hardship/pain of any blogger that I follow and have connected with. Some I feel more comfortable engaging with on a deeper basis than others, even in follow up comments. I think that sometimes bloggers (myself included) are simply looking for an acknowledgment that others are reading and listening. More is nice, but not always necessary.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Deb, I agree that acknowledgement of your suffering/trouble/pain/hardship, not necessarily anything else, is what we (collectively) want. I generally use the same words as above, and will add ((hugs)). Sometimes words themselves are too much.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Excellent! Sometimes writing about a situation is the best way someone can grasp the depth of their pain and help it make sense to them. I, too, struggle with “liking” when someone is writing about a personal part of their life. I want to say something, yet I also understand there are often no words. I agree with you, keeping the words simple and sincere, letting them know someone cares and is listening, is often all we need to do. It would me the world to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. These are great points. I, too, am often wordless when I read posts that tell of loss or hardship. It’s hard to know what to say, and you are right, to “like” such a serious post seems wrong. And here on WordPress, just because we follow blogs doesn’t mean we really know the owners and maybe the personal post is directed at readers who know the bloggers well. Having a stranger comment on your pain also seems wrong. So I also try to keep it short with a “thinking of you” type of comment. That seems the most honest. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Just to have someone say they are thinking of or praying for you when in a difficult situation is enough I think. I also hate the fact that the “like” button is our only option, Medium has changed to claps-somehow that seems callous also in a sensitive situation. Maybe the solution is to offer a caring button. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What a perfect post to let us all wonder how we treat each other as humans on a personal level. I love how you respond to those who have touched you. Comments always give us a boost. That someone is out there reading our stuff, it touched them, and in return you took the time to let them know. If more people took that sort of approach the world would be a better place for all of us!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I have been in this situation of not knowing what to say and feeling inadequate with my word choices. “I’m sorry” doesn’t feel like enough but you don’t wish to go on and make the situation awkward. I have also been on the side where the words were used for me. And to be honest? I remember more the sincerity behind it than the words spoken. I think you summed up the situation spot on; because it’s not “perfect” but it is sincere.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A “like” to a sensitive post never offended me and yet, I also usually feel uncomfortable using the option. I often don’t have a strong enough signal to comment or reply, so something is more supportive than nothing when a like posts. I thank God the Blogging Community has been a mainstay for support.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I click the “like” button but then I leave a comment along the lines of “I ‘liked’ this post but I don’t like this post…” and then offer as much support as I can, sending positive thoughts…thinking of you, prayers, etc. depending on how “close” I am with the blogger. It is the same thing as trying to figure out what to say when you go to a funeral.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know what you mean about those things sounding hollow, but I’m never sure what comments are good vs bad. A good friend of mine passed a few years ago, cancer. He had I think it’s called caringbridge, and another friend and I took turns reading the sentiments to him and helping him respond. While I know everyone had their heart in the right place, the words they came up with were sometimes odd. It’s just such a hard thing

      Like

  10. This was a great post! I worked with people as clergy and as a chaplain and while most people mean well, they can say things which aren’t always well-received. Your thoughtful remarks are along the right lines! Sometimes less is more. It is difficult to respond to personally revealing posts when someone shares a hurtful story from his past – the best thing is to express empathy without trumping the individual’s experience “I had that happen and I blah blah blah” or belittling it “you’ll be fine, it’s nothing” – obviously it’s something or the person wouldn’t be suffering. I often say “Thinking of you” and might add “how difficult that must have been” or something like that, depending upon what was revealed. The most important thing is to express empathy.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I think your handling of the situations is perfect. People don’t want to hear that we understand, or know how they’re feeling. Most times we don’t. Just being there, and a few kinds words is enough. Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have felt this way so many times. At least when the person is near me I just hold them for a while. That doesn’t quite translate over the internet. I’ve decided to go with the simplest and truest… that I’m sorry and thinking of them, wishing they did not have to go through this.
    Those sentiments are always sincere and seem to be appreciated. I can’t fix their problems, we both know that.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a great post and a valid question. For me when someone shares something so personal I always tell them thank you for sharing. I say that because in most instances it’s something heartbreaking and I know it must have been hard for them to write it. I also always tell them that I am sorry that they are going through whatever it is they are going through and I tell them I’m here for them if they ever need to talk. There’s really no words you can ever say to someone to make them feel better but just know long that you care and you are there is enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is a struggle I share with you. What do you say? Sometimes nothing is best, but which times are those? I think we’re all just stumbling around trying not to hurt each other too much, and trying to be helpful where we can.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It’s obvious from the number of comments what you said in this post is a common feeling. Thank you for getting it out in the open. I agree we need more options but the best option is to leave a comment that says you heard them and you thinking of them and thank them for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Your approach sounds very kind and humane, and i think that’s great.

    I think this issue comes up a lot especially in the more mature group of readers. I often skip the like button and just try to say something honest that I hope will help or at least not make it worse. Sometimes I mention if I have similar issues, in a health situation, but often I just say that I am sorry the person is suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great…sometimes it’s hard to come up with word to help someone who has gone through a loss. I recently read a fb group post by someone who lost her dad and while everyone was commenting I just said “so sorry for your loss” And then I kept asking myself

    “Is it the right thing to say? Should have just said sorry?” This is one of the most troubling commenting time anyone can ever have..you can never know fi what you say will make any real impression…but anyway you’ve added your own contribution..

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow! Great post. When life hits hard enough to leave you breathless, words often seem inadequate. I stumble with this as well. Usually, I ask something stupid like; “How are you?” or “Are you okay?” For me, personally, it’s the love and kindness behind the effort that has the most meaning.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I struggled with this last week. I ultimately kept it short, because any attempt to personalize someone else’s suffering or grief isn’t appropriate. It’s not always about us, but we try to insert our own struggles to somehow make the person know we’ve been there too. I’m learning that a simple “I’m sorry” or “thinking is you” is sometimes all you can say.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. It is hard to know what to say. Because what you really want to do is hug that person. And even that can often seem “not enough”. Life is hard. And life can present sucky situations to us. Just knowing people are thinking of you can be enough to get you through a day (coming from a mom who had a child with cancer).

    Liked by 1 person

  21. You have touched upon such an important topic in this post. “Like” is the only option and so I can only like it.
    I have also read somewhere that when someone is going through a hard phase in life, we should never tell them “I have gone through a similar phase and i have overcome it. You will be over it soon.” When they overcome it , they overcome it. No two phases are similar. Like you said, we can only give them that extra hug and genuinely pray that they get over it sooner than later.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I know. It’s very hard to know what to say and when. I tend to use the same phrases you do. My friend, Suzie, at work best friend died recently. I ask her every day how she is doing today. If she needs to talk she will and if she doesn’t she’ll say “thanks for asking.” Sometimes I will walk by and squeeze her shoulder. It’s so hard to know what to do and when to do it. You’re doing the right thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I truly appreciate this article! One of my articles I shared a very personal story about my daughter and struggles her and our family has to go through on a daily basis. I over and over second guessed myself as to whether or not I should share our story. I kept asking my sister should I share it. She finally pushed me in to it and reassured me people would appreciate how personal it is. And other moms would appreciate to know they’re not alone. I struggled with this for about a month. I even to this day struggle about keeping it up for others to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so applaud the people who share personal stories. I really think they help people, cause I think people often feel isolated or alone and different. Thank you for having the courage!!

      Like

  24. Having been on the receiving end of this recently, I can hand on heart say that just knowing someone took the time to read your thoughts on a difficult topic and respond, in *any* fashion, feels good. I started writing regularly first as an accident, then as a challenge, then because I found it cathartic and helpful. I started writing *publicly* as a way of holding myself to my own writing commitment. In my current situation saying “ugh I’ll write tomorrow” is too easy and appealing. My blog is my personal form of accountability to myself, even if no one ever reads it. But then, when people *do* read it, I am so gratified and humbled. The mode of response doesn’t bother me. I know “liking” a difficult post seems callous, but if that bothered me, why would I continue to expose myself to it on WordPress? Yes, comments are always lovely to get, but I appreciate any sign that my words reasonated with someone.

    Having said all that, I also agree that the simplest phrases can be the most powerful. I have found that even a simple ❤️ can be welcome when words aren’t adequate.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. My sentiments exactly… I think you have what it takes to help people. You should try volunteering at your local hospital or a foundation. I find peer mentoring very gratifying, and this help is needed everywhere. Be well!

    Liked by 1 person

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