Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets

Over the years I have come to realize just how terrible I am at handling any sort of tragic situation. Each time, an insane amount of nervous energy washes over me.

I can speak in public until I am blue in the face, but something about tragic events completely stops me in my tracks.

I can tell you of a few instances which I have handled poorly:

When I lived in Lake Tahoe I used to babysit our neighbor's children. I loved those two little boys so much. Over the years, I watched them grow up.

A few years ago, I found out the younger of the two died in a tragic car accident. I was devastated. I did not know what to do. I had no idea how to handle the situation. Should I call? Should I go over and visit? I did not know what to do. I was wracked with nervousness. I had no idea what I would say to his parents....his brother.

What did I end up doing? I sent a card and tried to express my deepest, sincere sympathy. Not good enough. As I said, this was a few years ago. Have I been over since? Have I showed my face. No. The answer is no!

I feel terrible about the way I handled the situation.

Another example of how poorly I handle traumatic occurrences:

My neighbor's husband had cancer and there was a time when he was doing much better. The two of them were walking by my house one day and I asked how they were doing. He said something like, "well other than the cancer being back, great." I froze, I did not know what to say...I said nothing. No worse than that, I acted like I did not hear exactly what he said because we were many, many feet apart from each other. I shut the door and was so disappointed in myself. I was so upset about the news. I was so incredibly upset by the way I handled myself!

Once he passed, I walked over and basically shoved a card and flowers into my neighbor's hands. I hugged her and had no words.

I have another neighbor whose wife has cancer. I found it so hard to inquire about her. Not because I don't care, it's honestly quite the opposite. I always wanted to, but could not as much as I desired.

I have now been forced to “kind of” know how to handle future experiences of the people around me. There is nothing like going through something yourself, and experiencing how you best want to be treated.

I have learned so much. I constantly sit in amazement as so many step up and help us in countless ways. I picture myself in your shoes and know that in the past I could never have handled "us" in the way you have. Not because I did not want to, but because I always had a way of standing right smack in my very own way.

I know that everyone handles things differently and people have different levels of getting offended. Overall, I honestly think people mean well in whatever way they express their condolences. I think if someone says the wrong thing, it is more out of nervousness and unease rather than anything else.

I have truly appreciated everyone who has come to us, in whatever form, and expressed their sympathy for our situation. I also completely understand how some keep their distance or say very little.

I am so full of regret for the way I have handled myself in past situations, but have grown up and learned (the hard way) the way I hope to help people in the future.

I want to express my heartfelt apology to Jill, Rick, Brandon, Eugene, Kamilah, Ruth and Nita.


  1. Jen-you always amaze me with how you continuously day after day pour yourself out for others to see. You truly are an amazing person! We all learn from our past experiences-that's what the journey is for. Do not burden your heart with regret!

    Annie from Toledo

  2. Jen, you are much kinder than me! There are wrong things to say to me, but I haven't held it against anyone who DIDN'T say something. I understand that. And I do understand the meaning behind people who do say the wrong things, they are just trying to say something, anything, even if it rubs me the wrong way. And trust me, the people who come pouring in to help you.... they WANT to help. Even I felt so helpless with sissy and wanted to DO something. All you can do is appreciate the things people do.

  3. it is hard to know what to say. I find myself following your blog but I don't comment all the time because you have great followers who can actually offer advice or sayt he right things becasue either they have been where you are at or just better at expressing themselves. I suck at it, I always want to write something then whenI do comment it always sounds like nothing. Just know you aren't the only one with that problem there are lots of us who are so saddend by what has happend and amazed by all that your family is doing but there just aren't words, or if there are we can't find them.

  4. I think it is really difficult for many people to know what to say....
    I know that I have awkwardness in this also...
    Some people know just what to say... some say all the wrong things...and then there are those of us in the middle somewhere...
    Sometimes just a smile, a hug, or just being there really is enough.

  5. It can be so hard to figure out what to say. Most of the time, a hug and "I'm here for you if you need anything" is plenty.

    Sometimes I'll send flowers, but I like to send food if I can. When you're going through something like that, knowing dinner is ready makes the day that much easier. Costco's frozen lasagna fills the fridge and their tummies. :)

  6. Jen, What a great post. Being on both sides of tragedy, it is certainly eye-opening. This is so new to me, but I have felt the same things you described. Sometimes I sense a hesitance when people learn of David's injury. And sometimes I just tell them, "Hey, you can ask questions. I don't mind." Everyone is different, so even though I'm open, I don't know if the next person wants to talk. I think the main thing is that we mean well. Thanks so much for sharing this. I love reading your blog!

  7. I'm another one who reads daily and posts rarely. This post made me wonder if we were related in another life. That's exactly how I am and it has taken me get better at acting on my feelings.