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Abby Heugel Headshot

When You Don't Know What to Say

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"The friend that holds your hand and says the wrong thing is made of dearer stuff than the one who stays away." -- Barbara Kingsolver

This quote has always spoken to me, and I was reminded of it recently when a friend going through a rough time said I, "always know the right thing to say."

I laughed to myself, as that sounded ridiculous to me. While I might be good at offering a perspective I fail to absorb in my own daily life -- denial is truly a gift, my friends -- most of the time I just ramble and hope that something might stick, that I might be able to help ease just a smidgen of pain.

My problem is that I'm a "fixer."

Unfortunately, there seems to be a string of pretty crappy things happening lately that proves we all have "something" that we're dealing with that's out of our control.

There's no greater feeling of helplessness than to know that someone you care about is sick, financially strapped, in pain (physically or emotionally) or, let's be honest, dealing with death -- the reality of their own or that of a parent, a friend or the horror of the loss of a child.

There are no "right" words, and at some point you realize that things happen to you and happen around you that can't be fixed.

And it's not your job to fix them.

I think a lot of people unintentionally ignore these things at times, not because they don't care, but simply because they can't "fix" them and have no clue how to react. Those who are sick or aging aren't necessarily the same people we've known them to be, and selfishly, we want them to be the people they were before they got sick, before they got old, before they became so... mortal.

The realization that things will never be the same -- and that you can't fix it as such -- is enough to make you stress yourself out in an attempt to save the world or conversely stay at home curled up in a ball, not dealing with it at all.

But just as much as you don't want to deal with it, I can guarantee that the person who is sick or struggling doesn't want to deal with it a million times more -- but they do, often with courage and grace.

I think that in and of itself can be intimidating, the fact that you are lucky enough to be in a comparatively better position. The strength of those who aren't can be inspiring beyond belief, but it can also make us question how we would be if faced with such a challenge.

It takes courage to face the unknown, but it's much easier to do so when you're on the right side of the coin, to be the one who has a choice.

But the fact is that as strong as they are or appear to be, they're probably still scared. So we put the guilt aside for wanting them to be the people they were before they got sick, before they got old, before they became so... mortal. Because at their core, they are the same people.

And you know what?

They know that you can't fix things, and most don't expect you to. They have no choice but to deal the hand they were dealt, and sometimes they just want you to hold that hand.

They don't want to do it alone.

That's one thing I -- and you -- can fix.

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