Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What We Need to Hear When Life Is Hard

When life gets tough we hope that our family and friends will be there for us. I know when I lost my mom I appreciated all the support through meals and kind words; it is often easier to know how to support a grieving friend than someone whose life has been made difficult through an intentional choice. Let me explain.

What we need to hear when life is hard

There are times in life where we make choices based on our desires and callings.

Maybe we want to work outside the home, grow our family, move to a small town (or overseas), help a specific group of people or volunteer. These things can be hard on us but we made the choice because it was important. One example is Gary coaching basketball – life is a lot more of a juggling act but also fulfilling for him. Another decision is being a foster family. It has made everything a lot busier and more difficult. Did I think "Oh, I love babies, let's be a foster family!". No. It was more of an understanding that there was a need and we could fill it. We truly felt called to open up our hearts and homes to children that needed it. Is it worth it? Yes. One hundred times, yes.

Even when things are worth it they can be exhausting.

Sharing with family and friends is an important part of my life – I need to feel heard and supported. There are two general ways in which people can respond if I were to say "I had a really hard day dealing with medical appointments and going to a visit". One response is "Well, maybe you shouldn't foster" or "At least you didn't have to go to work" and the other is "That does sound hard. You're doing great work. Is there anything I can do to help?".

The difference between these responses can lead to deflation or a much needed boost.

Yes, I realize that our day-to-day life would be a lot easier if I chose not to do certain things but we are not here for an easy life. We are here for depth and meaning. As a family we will not always foster as this is a season in our lives and when we transition to the next phase, whatever it may be, we may invite other situations that are tricky yet important. What has been critical to making it through the tough stages? Those who get it or try to.

Finding those in a similar situation can be life-giving. 

You cannot underestimate the power of someone who fully gets why you do what you do or wants to learn about it. Find your community. And if you have a friend that is going through a difficult time and says something like "Daycare costs so much" or "Having four kids is so expensive" or "Living in this town is so hard" think about your response. Is it helpful and life-giving or is it unsupportive? They made that decision for a reason. Please do not be the one to say "Well then don't do it" or "At least [insert silver lining here]".

Great things to say involve connection and empathy:

1. Wow, that does sound hard.
2. You are really putting in a lot of time and energy.
3. What you are doing is important.
4. Is there something specific that you need? Someone I can connect you to?
5. I'm here for you if you ever need to talk.
6. I appreciate you sharing this with me and I would love to listen anytime.
7. Can you teach/tell me more about that?

Have you experienced this? What is one of the most helpful things that someone has said to you?


When we make decisions in life that make things more difficult, what do we need to hear from others? What increases empathy and connection?

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