This is one of my favorite contributions to the Salvation Story project from
my friend, Meagan.  Not only does Meagan tell one of her own Salvation
Stories, but she tells us all what to say when we don’t know what to say.
I don’t think the exact word that her messenger of grace spoke is that
important, but it is the spirit of humility, empathy, and wise knowing that
there are times when the rights words don’t make any difference, but that
being present to someone who is suffering makes all the difference. This
story challenges me to show up, empathize, stop trying to sound like an
expert, and participate in the truth of the human story — that we all have
experiences that don’t make sense, and that means we don’t need
someone to make sense of them.  We need someone to enter the ruins of
our lives — even for just a minute — and acknowledge that it doesn’t
make sense.  There is something about that acknowledgement that allows
us to hold on (even by a thread) to the truth of the Second Step of the Twelve
Steps:  that only a power greater than ourselves can restore us to Sanity.

There’s going to be a swear word (albeit a bleeped one) in this post.
Normally I don’t condone swearing on the blog, but sometimes,
swearing is all you can do, and this is one of those times. I know you’re
all old enough to handle it, but I felt like I should warn you anyway.
I shop for greeting cards kind of a lot. When I got tired of shopping for
them so much, I just started making them myself. I love greeting cards, is
my point, because I love handwritten sentiment in all its forms. I love love
love it. There is an obvious exception to that rule, however, and that
exception is the sympathy sentiment. In all my ventures to card and
stationary stores, if I find a good sympathy card – and by “good” I mean
“doesn’t make me want to put my fist through a brick wall” – I always buy
it. Because my GOODNESS I’ll be darned if sympathy isn’t the hardest and
worst thing to try convey in words ever, and if someone manages to do it
well, I’m gonna jump on that.
Before I had a loss in my life that was major, I was so awkward about sympathy. What do I say? What do I not say? And I was awkward because it is awkward, that’s why, and there is nothing, and I do mean nothing
good to say in the face of grief. I always thought there was, but I just didn’t
know it. I thought I’d learn it in seminary, in my counseling degree; no
such luck. But when it happened to me, when I was the one people were
avoiding and awkwardly stumbling over their words around, I realized something important. There’s nothing good to say. There’s just not.

Here are a few of the things I have learned, though. First is what I just
said. Since there is no code or formula for magical helpful words that will
make the pain go away for the person you’re comforting, or attempting to,
there’s no pressure or expectation that you need to try and fix anything.
It’s not about fixing it so much as it is about being there. Sitting in the
mess, wading through the wreckage. Holding hands and crying or
laughing or both, as the case may be. No matter how well-meaning,
people say really stupid things sometimes in these situations, and that just
is what it is. But not showing up at all hurts worse than any of them. Be available. That’s what counts.
The other thing I learned – and this might be the most important – is to not
try and be something you’re not. Don’t worry about being eloquent if you’re
not eloquent. Don’t worry about saying the right thing because there isn’t
a right thing. Don’t try and manufacture a Hallmark card sentiment if
that’s not your style. And if it is your style, by all means, hit me with your
best shot. If you bake casseroles, bake a casserole. If you are more
comfortable doing things, offer to go grocery shopping or something.
If you’ve lost someone too, empathize, share; and if you haven’t, it doesn’t
mean you’re not qualified to listen. Only two things are important, in my
opinion and experience, and they are these: show up, and then be yourself.
If it’s ugly and awkward, fine. As long as you’re there and it’s genuine, I’m
still going to love you for it.
The summer after Audrie died, I went to a college friend’s wedding in
Dallas. Some people knew what had happened in my family and said
nothing, other people clearly didn’t know anything, some said the kindest
words, and others hugged me just a few seconds longer than felt usual so I
would know that they knew, that they cared. A sort-of-mentor of mine
from college was there, too, and I think I wasn’t sure if he knew or not.
Two things I can say without a doubt about that man: he is present and he
is genuine, without fail. And I will never, ever forget: we were standing in
line for the appetizers. I didn’t even realize he was behind me until I heard
a low voice, just loud enough to be deciphered over Sinatra crooning from
the speakers mere feet from us, say to me:
You know what? F*ck cancer.
He gave me a quick hug, and that was it. It wasn’t eloquent, or
constructive, or even very appropriate.
And it was perfect.
Show up. Be you. That’s all anyone who’s hurting wants or expects from
you. I promise.
If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical
comments for yourself.  You might be needing forgiveness before the
day’s out.  Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed.
Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.”  
Galatians 6:1,2,
The Message