What do you say when you don’t know what to say? What can be said that helps when you are presented with another person’s loss, pain, grief, and struggle? When we are presented with pain over which we are powerless to repair, the words that truly fit the circumstance are, “I’m sorry.” We can offer a person our sorrow, the identifying pain that says, “I deeply wish that this struggle were not yours, and I offer you my care.”
We do not usually believe the words, “I’m sorry,” are of much help, and we tend not to believe that they offer much comfort. However, they can be the words that hold a person’s heart for a moment to receive caring, and a balm that aids healing. Also, the words, “I’m sorry,” offer the powerful gift to a person in grief, of any kind, of knowing that they are not alone. Even though the one at loss will have to go through their grief on their own, they will not be alone.
The words, “I’m sorry,” are the words that truly fit for a person who is struggling with life and its harshness, the downs after the ups, the mistakes that we make by disregarding wisdom, the sicknesses, the losses, the savageries, the disappointments in a life that will never always go the way we want it to go. They are the words that tell the truth about life for all of us.
“I’m sorry,” if you actually mean it, are words that offer a blessing because you are saying that you have heartache over another’s circumstances, that you care, and that you wish the circumstances were much different. More than anything, the words, “I’m sorry,” communicate that you yourself know sorrow. Not comparative or the same sorrow, but acceptance of your own struggles that have created empathy in you—the capacity to know the pain of life yourself, and therefore the ability to identify what it may be like for another. That empathy can open the door for another person who is in pain; that, “I’m sorry,” can allow the strength of care and love to deliver its medicine to an ailing heart.
Chip Dodd, PhD, is a teacher, trainer, author, and counselor, who has been working in the field of recovery and redemption for over 30 years. With his clinical experience, love of storytelling, and passion for living fully, Chip developed a way of seeing and expressing one’s internal experience called the Spiritual Root System™. To read more from Chip, visit his blog, or check out his books.