NO! It’s Not Okay!

My son was growing beautifully, safely tucked away in the depths of my womb.Preston wired up Well, safely is probably not the most accurate word to use. At around my sixth month of pregnancy, the sonogram technician detected something abnormal. Now that’s a word that no expecting parent ever wants to hear. Needless to say, after sending us immediately to a pediatric cardiologist for a closer look, my tiny and perfect baby was diagnosed with TGA (Transposition of the Great Arteries). To simply sum that up, that’s when the major arteries to the heart are flip-flopped in their position. The end result would mean that the heart would not be able to pump out oxygen-rich blood to the body, and hence my boy would not be able to breathe once he was no longer sheltered inside of me.  A beautifully easy labor was quickly overshadowed by the nurses scurrying him away without having the chance to even hold him, feel his skin or kiss his little toes. It was time to stabilize him and get him ready for surgery. We had learned of an amazing surgeon, a god in this field, with an averaged 99 percent success rate. And this is where the true point of this article begins.

At some point in each of our lives there comes a time when we will need to provide some type of understanding or sympathy for someone else, be it a friend or a coworker. For many, this can be an uncomfortable situation since they find themselves at a loss for words. Admit it. Have you not ever had to buy a sympathy card and felt the need to write more than just the cheesy generic words that are already factory printed but you have no idea what to say? You know it’s necessary to say more than just sign that card. So you Google search, “what to write in a (fill in the blank)”. There seems to be a boatload of folks out there needing some guidance since “in a sympathy card” is the second most searched option. (wedding card was the most searched which only means we seem to live amongst a generation of people who can’t come up with an original thought even on happy occasions). You scroll through what just may be hundreds of suggestions then pass one off as your own thought, or at least some version of it. Don’t feel bad. Join me please in this over populated prison cell for the Hallmark plagiarist, I’ve saved you a seat.

But when faced with someone ‘real time”, in person, face to face, many crutch on to the ever so reliable “It’s okay, everything is going to be fine”.

The news of my son’s upcoming surgery was now common knowledge amid many, which left us exposed to a bombardment of the “It’s okay”; “He’ll be okay”; “You have a great surgeon, it’s all going to be okay”. In tandem came the infamous rub on the back; the sympathetic squeeze of the shoulder; or the nervous raise of the eyebrows with a combo tilt and nod of the head as they blurted out the words they thought were the most comforting. Unfortunately, I may not have been the kindest person nor was I receptive to this type of consolation. “What makes any of this okay?”; “How do you know it’s going to be okay?”; “There are parents out there that landed into that one percent and their child did NOT make it! WPreston 2 years oldhat makes us any different or any more special?”; “I could be that hopeful mom in the waiting room eventually down on bended knees crying after hearing the doctor tell her that her son didn’t make it out of surgery because his little heart was too weak”. Two years have passed since that surgery and thankfully, yes, all turned out great. My tiniest one is doing well.

Life experience has definitely slapped some sense into me. It has enabled me to feel what it may be like to walk in someone else’s shoes/boots/heels, you name it. I’ve definitely become a lot more empathetic. But as is my nature, even my empathy comes with a controlled amount of emotion and gets balanced with logic. And it’s this mix of emotional logic, or better yet, logical emotion that curbs my words even if someone else’s plight makes ME uncomfortable.

Empathy involves not just compassion and warmth, but its main attribute is recognition, comprehension, having insight, being on the same wavelength.

Simply put, if your friend tells you that they were up all night with a sick child, your response stating that little junior will be fine does nothing by means of empathy.  I promise you that telling her “You must be exhausted, I don’t know how you do it” shows more understanding than brushing off her concerns with a happy, life is great, all is good in the world comment. Your neighbor happens to vent how he’s distraught that his young 19-year-old daughter just announced her pregnancy. Making light of the subject by joking how he’s about to be a grandfather won’t help the situation. But acknowledging his plight with “I’m sure as a dad you envisioned it differently for your baby since we already know how difficult it is to raise a family especially when you’re that young” will help validate his feelings entirely. Your teenage kid finally breaks down and lets you in on their agonizing over getting dumped by their true love. “You’re young, you’ll be fine. It’s a rite of passage. Years from now you’ll know what true love really is”. Wrong answer. Are you kidding me? Your kid finally lets you in and you reduce their feelings to such a dismissive basic reply? How about acknowledging the pain, and digging deep to find the memory of losing your own first love back in the day?

True sympathetic words should never have to fit more into your own comfort zone than the person that needs the comfort. As the listener you have been granted the opportunity to make a difference in the life of the news bearer, even if for just a few minutes. As the listener, as the friend, as the family member, as the one graced to receive the news, this is your moment to show true camaraderie. Don’t mess this one up. Don’t tell someone who says they are worried to not worry. Don’t tell someone who says they are scared that there is no reason to be scared. Don’t tell someone who expresses sadness to not feel sad. Point blank, just don’t tell someone how to feel. Those comments are not comforting. They’re a cop-out, a way to dodge the emotional bullet. Take stock of how you can be a true shoulder to cry on, a true listening ear, an actual “I’m here for you”, a person that can relate. Do your research. Practice, practice, practice. Remember, it truly is okay that not everything is okay.

— Elke

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10 thoughts on “NO! It’s Not Okay!

  1. Seriously agree. Because sometimes it isn’t ok at all. When you lose your little one, you stop saying “it’s gonna be ok” to others because sometimes it just isn’t. I know some well meaning people who need to read this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Katie, did you lose your little one? My heart bleeds for you and every parent that does. There is no consolation for such a loss; not even time helps with something like that. I hope you have been able to find a true supporter that helps you be what you need to be, that allows you to feel what you have a right to feel. I’m sending you a genuinely strong hug from New Jersey, because…well…just because.

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      • A long distance hug? That’s fabulous! Yes, I did lose my little one. Many people were wonderful at the time, but there were certainly some unhelpful comments. My favorite? “It was God’s will.” Really? My son just died after 29 days of suffering because it was God’s will?! I don’t care if that is true or not, or what you believe or not. It just isn’t what you say to a grieving mother, any more than telling her everything is gonna be ok. Just saying. Thankfully, those comments were overshadowed by all the good.

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        • I ageee with you completely. I didnt add that one in particular to my post because I didnt want to rub anyone the wrong way. But I have always been against the excuse that it was gods will or that god needed another angel. Im a true believer in god, but those words are not comforting. They actually create anger and resentment toward maybe the one thing the griever would have found comfort or hope in. Its a shame to blame such a powerful being as needing a baby’s life to survive. Some people just don’t think these things through.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yes, we had a lot of these comments when our eldest was 4 1/2 months and had his open heart to repair his ASD, VSD and PDA. Then the same ones when the youngest twins had an operation at 2 months to correct a congenital issue. I beliee those people meant well, but just could not summon the words, like you said. The ones who bothered me were the morons 2 1/2 years later telling me that it was “just his time” when my beloved passed and left me and the three toddlers heart broken at his loss. Or the incredibly tasteless idiots (including my own father) who insisted “you are young, you will find someone else” and similar crap as if he was a car that broke down as was easily replaced.

    Well almost 16 years later, I am still a widow and still missing my beloved that no other man can hold a candle to, I have learned to be hyper-careful what words I choose when trying to be there for people after a trauma or a loss. More often, I believe in erring on the side of “I am here for you.”, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee and lend you an ear?” or just making a plan to show up when they need to go shopping, get out of the house for a bit and I offer to “keep the kids” to give them time to de-stress, cry, grieve, whatever is necessary without little eyes around to see. That would have been a blessing for me back in the day, so I give it to others whenever I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, let me begin by asking if the kids are okay. How did that all turn out? It’s so difficult watching our little ones in such a life threatening situation. I’m sure you felt as helpless as I did not being able to change this outcome for them. Secondly, I am so sorry about losing your beloved and no amount of years should ever be classified as enough time. I get so angry when I hear folks justifying someone’s death. There is NO good reason for loss…NONE.
      I definitely have used some of your forms of reaching out to others…to help distract them even for a few hours. Those were the ones that helped me the most. I also loved the genuine silent hard hug. Those meant a lot. Thank you for your kind words and may you continue to find support.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes, as you said yourself about your own little beloved “all turned out great”. I think there is a special magick in the hands of the cardio-gods who tend to the youngest among us and they should receive special rewards in their next lives. Our amazing doctor was named Lawrence Fox and I never hesitate to sing his praises when anyone asks after his handiwork. We were informed that without surgery our Roo would live to be a happy 19/20 year old and with surgery, if he takes care of himself he can have the same 60-90 years of the average male in America. As his 20th birthday is barely over 4 months away, and his last checkup at 18 showed everything still working beautifully his next checkup scheduled is 5 years out from then, I always give a thank you to Dr. Fox on Roo’s birthday. Our youngest twin is in excellent health now as well and trying to grow to his dad’s height of 6’6″ apparently as he is only a few inches from it now at 18.

        May I just say that I think your article is brilliant and I hope that you realize that even if only 1 in 10 people reading it walk away with a kinder, better way of dealing with people, speaking with them during the trying times in life, then you have started a revolution. I know I have mentioned the article to several friends and family and I am certain others have as well, so as those go out and tell others and spread the idea of a kinder and more loving approach. Thank you for starting the revolution.

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  3. WoW! This is amazing! I’m am super happy for you and your son, I’m glad all turned out well.
    This definitely makes a lot of sense, and I am guilty of feeling uncomfortable in an odd situation and using the original “it’s going be ok.” Reading your story reminded me when I miscarried at 6 months pregnant, and I had a lot of “supporters”. They all said “its going be ok” and it would get me so MAD as well, and thinking they didn’t understand what I was feeling. It got to the point that I didn’t want my “supporters” around me.
    Looking forward to do research and learn to be a great supporter for others when the unfortunate comes along.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, I cannot even imagine what you felt to miscarry so far in to your pregnancy. I’m so sorry you had to go through such an experience, one that I’m sure you’ll never forget. And I agree about wanting to get away from your supposed supporters. Having to greive coupled with anger toward others does not mix well. I’m glad that my words can be of some help. And I’m sure that your desire to be a better supporter to others will make you the perfect shoulder to lean on.

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