3 Things to Say, to Someone Having a Bad Day

two women sits in office talking to each other
by Vance Larson

I am an eternal optimist. I believe that it will always work out for the best. I can find the good in every situation. But what I can’t do is lie.

Spending 20 years as a crisis counselor, there were times when I so desperately wanted to lie. I wanted to lie, so my client wouldn’t be uncomfortable. I wanted to lie, because I did not want to tell them that they were dying. I wanted to lie, so they wouldn’t panic. But I couldn’t, so I learned be honest and take my cues from them. Because we do them a disservice by not telling the truth.

Because sometimes it’s not going to be okay. 

I have written about this before. I have trained other helping professionals on this very subject. And while it is difficult, it is very necessary to be honest. Because sometimes it’s not going to be okay. Sometimes people are going to die. And sometimes we in our role as caregiver or support professional, are the one who must deliver the bad news. And to do this effectively, we must suspend our discomfort and see to the needs of our client. 

It is interesting that we would believe that people wouldn’t want to hear bad news. But studies would show that is not the case. A study conducted in 1982 showed that 96% in this group desired to hear that they had a cancer diagnosis. While 85% wanted to know their prognosis, and how much time they realistically had? There is a protocol that is used to deliver bad news called SPIKES. It’s a 6 step process that supportive professionals use. And while I agree and use those steps in a grave situation, most of us will never have to entertain that process.

But what about the everyday run of the mill bad day bad news? How do we address a loved one going through a tough time? For me, it is kind of the same process. First whenever possible, I like to make sure that the environment is conducive for having such a talk. I let my loved one talked, vent or cry and then I deliver the truth. Then I follow the truth with, I am with you. What do you need? Is there a blessing? And there is a reason for this.

Sometimes some very bad things happen and we just have to deal.

It is important that my loved one knows that they are not alone. That whatever they are going through, they have my support. Then I talk about their needs. What do they need at this time that may help them? There will be times that their needs can’t be met. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something that we can do {or get} to improve the situation, even in the slightest bit. And then I ask about a blessing. In most every case we will find some sort of silver lining. Not always. Sometimes some very bad things happen and we just have to deal. But, the reason I ask about the blessing is two fold. One, it creates distraction. Distraction from pain is vital. Some people will pop a pill. Others will have a drink. And yet others will turn to some other destructive vice that provides a short term solution, but ultimately leads them further down the rabbit hole. The other reason we talk about the blessing is outcomes. A negative attitude only compounds a negative situation. Looking for a blessing activates feelings of hopefulness. 

Bad time are inevitable for all of us. And when someone we love is in the middle of it, we only need to say 3 things. I am with you. What do you need? Is there a blessing?

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