Oftentimes when a loved one is faced with a life-changing injury or diagnosis, the only thing others can do to offer help is through words. Loving, heartfelt words can be powerful in a scenario like this. But words can also have a negative effect if spoken without thinking first. Aimee Aranguren, a speech-language pathologist at Magee Rehab, has up close and personal experience when it comes to people attempting to comfort their loved ones with words.
"I have seen firsthand how my patients can be negatively affected by visitors saying things that are hurtful, even when unintended."
So Aimee has come up with some practical Dos and Don'ts when it comes to using words in a time of crisis. Check them out:
AVOID: “Everything happens for a reason.”
"This might be your belief," says Aimee, "but someone dealing with a life changing illness does not want to hear that there is a reason for their health challenge."
TRY INSTEAD: “I am so sorry. I love you.”
AVOID: “I know how you feel.”
Aimee says, "Remember that every illness or injury is different for each person. This is not about your experience with the illness or injury. It is about their experience with it."
TRY INSTEAD: “This experience sounds challenging.”
AVOID: “I know someone that has ____, too. They are fine now.”
TRY INSTEAD: "Do not discuss another person’s situation and compare it to your loved one’s experience," advises Aimee. "Experiences can be different even with the same diagnosis."
So if you find yourself in a situation where you want to use words to comfort a loved one, a little preparation and forethought can go a long way. And remember, no matter the circumstance, speaking from the heart is always a good decision.
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