Finding the Right Words

By C. M. G.

My world was shattered when I joined the ranks of the wounded the day my daughter was diagnosed with cancer. The world I lived in, one of familiar routines and ordinary activities, was replaced by a frightening universe filled with doctors and specialists, sterile hospital wards, intrusive surgeries, harsh medications, and most alarming, unpredictable results. Although I am an optimist by nature, I am consumed by fear. I must work very hard to accept my lot and forge ahead by sheer force of will. I am able to do it because my family and friends are here for me and my daughter, showering us with empathy, compassion and concern. They go above and beyond the call of duty, which helps us cope.

Every phone call I receive brings me comfort; each gesture envelops me in a feeling of support. This practical and emotional help enables me to focus on my goal and remain strong, both for myself and for my daughter.

I once read an article that described a phenomenon called “at-leasting,” the curious tendency of well-meaning friends to point out to those who are suffering that “at least” something else dire hasn’t happened during this time of crisis. Your child broke his leg? At least he didn’t break two. Your house burned down? At least your family is safe.

While “at-leasting” is an excellent way to cope with your own challenges, when something bad happens to someone else, we need to remember that “at least” is not what they want to hear. The suffering person needs empathy and validation; that is the best comfort one can offer. No one wants to hear that the challenging moment in which he is caught up isn’t really so bad because it could have been so much worse.
No one can measure how difficult a challenge is to another person, because each individual’s character and strengths are different. What challenges one person is very different from what may challenge another.

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