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The Power of Specificity: Things You Can Say and Do When You Have No Idea What to Say or Do


Submitted 8 months ago
Created by
Kerry Krieger Clifford

I complain all of the time. Sometimes I just get SO MAD at my situation! My last blog was kind of complain-y – all about a thing people say that isn’t helpful or true. But when I open my heart up a little bit to the intent behind the thing, I see so clearly the love and hope that drives my people to say it to me.

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I also know that they are at a complete loss for what else to say. I’ve been there. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can say, but your brain just can’t say nothing. So out come the clichés. Instead of continuing to complain, allow me to suggest some alternatives.

Obviously, these suggestions won’t work for everyone because if you’ve met one person with a grave illness, you’ve met ONE person with a grave illness. But it’s a start, right? (If you ARE a person with a grave illness, please chime in about what has worked or would work for you. Maybe our loved ones will find an overarching theme that they can embrace.)

Rule of thumb: be specific; be concrete 

Instead of saying, "Let me know if you need anything," say, "Can I stop by on Tuesday to do your dishes?"

Instead of saying, "I'll cook for you whenever you want," say, “I’m going to make a casserole this week. Would you prefer chicken and rice or tuna noodle?

Instead of saying, "Call me if you need a ride" (I'm not going to call. I know it's dumb, but I'm just not.), say, “When are your appointments this week? I’ll drive you if I can, and if I can’t, I’ll get rides lined up for you.

Instead of saying, "You'll beat this," say, “No one fights alone. I’m here.

Instead of saying, "Everything happens for a reason," say, “This just sucks.

Instead of saying, "God doesn't give you anything you can't handle," say, “I love you.” Or silently hold my hand in church even though you never go to church. Or come over with a movie that you haven’t made me choose. (Please don’t forget the coke and popcorn!)

Kerry's favorite dinner

    I recognize that it's my job to nurture myself and my family by accepting these efforts to reach out. I'm working on that. I promise.

    And to the women of my church who have formed a cleaning brigade during the times that my mom is out of town;

    To Hilary, who texts, "can Moxie come for a walk with me after I drop my kid off at practice at 5:30?";

    To my plow guy who just shows up when the snow does; 

    To the people who send random checks and Windsor Station gift cards in the mail;

    To Heidi, Karen, and the others who have pretty much ensured that I will never again in my life pay for a chai latte at Boston Dreams;  

    And to the hundreds of others who have harnessed this Power of Specificity on my behalf, 

    THANK YOU. You are my heroes. 

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