Dear Kitty,

Dear Kitty,

So recently I talked about how much I want to kick a wall when I encounter one of those “It Could Be Worse” people. When something isn’t ideal in our minds and we vent a little about it, the “It Could Be Worse” people come out of the woodwork to one-up on our pain.

When life does it’s predictable unpredictability, we humans are famous for falling to cliches to balance out our prophetic ignorance. It’s a “Fall Back Phrase”, which is usually also a conversation stopper (because heaven help us if we don’t know what to say after that) It’s arguable, but we know that the recipient will likely not argue the point. It’s something safe to say when we don’t know what to say, because we have this little twitch in our brain that makes us believe that we have to say something, anything.

The following “Fall Backs Phrases” that I hear/see most often that make me want to take my heel, plant it with force on the foot of the cliche dispenser and keep stomping so that the words never make it out of their mouth to offend someone else are:

Everything happens for a reason:

This is a cliche that is a cleverly disguised insult to someone who is struggling. It implies that their struggle is insignificant because the “reason” is all-important.

It also begs the internal dialogue that I may have done something in which I needed a “reason” to struggle. Some lesson that I needed to be reminded of through suffering. So in essence, I brought this on myself.

We aren’t made to understand God’s plan:

Durrr…that’s why it’s called (big air Quotes here) “God’s Plan.” The big outline drawn out by an unseen omnipotent deity that for some reason included my suffering in its life blueprint that I’m not made to understand as a puny human with my puny human brain.

You can’t say anything here (unless you don’t believe in God, which kind of makes the phrase moot) because we have been raised to never doubt the divine plan of our lives. So we just have to nod dumbly and accept the “Plan.”

You are strong/You won’t be given more than you can handle:

This one is a veiled pep talk that takes away our very human right to grieve, worry or be weak. You need to cry or vent and by that phrase, you are expected to suck it up and keep plugging away at life.

Question: Let’s say you are a woman (which I am, but maybe you aren’t, so just pretend…I’ll wait while you flip on LifeTime TV, grab some cookie dough and channel your estrogen) You are in your last moments of pregnancy and you have all the “equipment” to give birth. Since there is a baby begging to exit and your body was made to give birth, does this take away the pain? Just because you have the stuff to endure something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt sometimes.

It’ll get easier:

Sure, time heals all wounds, but I don’t have the luxury of being a time traveler. I am living in the here and now. Even if the future is pain/suffering free, I have to get through today.

I’ll pray for you:

Really? Because that is saying God will possibly listen to your prayers over mine since my prayers obviously just hit the ceiling and disappeared.

This is great because praying for someone is an amazing thing to do, but in the middle of deep despair it can be the most commonly used phrase that people say when they have to just say something. It goes virtually unheard because of it’s flippant use these days with followers of Christ. It is the “end-all” of comments, because are you really going to do it and do you have any idea what I need you to pray for?

It is a very good thing to petition God, but when someone is hurting I think it’s best to be specific with your intention of prayer because by talking to them about their need you are validating what they are going through at that moment.

Meaning – it deepens your relationship with that person and your own relationship with God. Comparatively when we are thanking God, we can just do a broad “Thanks God for everything,” but our relationship deepens when we detail what we are thankful for. It helps us see every blessing in sharper focus. Just like when praying for someone else’s pain we internalize their struggle in sharper focus and our prayers are more intentional.


So unless you want your foot stomped by me, stop with the “Fall Back Phrases” that you know and try these little gems on for size:

I don’t understand either (coupled with a hug or arm pat)

With this little pearl you just validated their confusion and pain. You also (with brief human contact) let them know you are there and you care.

Is there anything you need or that I can help you with right now (coupled with a hug or arm pat)

My lovely friend Kristine, who is saving lives in the name of her Cora, had this to say about calling the bereaved. She comes from a place that has known loss and wants you to know what a grieving person needs from you


This tiny nugget let them know that they aren’t alone and you are willing to help ease the pain or burdens that they may be facing. You also (with brief human contact) let them know that you are there and you care.

How can I pray for you today (coupled with a hug or arm pat)

The morsel here just told them that you probably don’t know what their heart, mind or body needs right now, but you want to help. It acknowledges that what they are facing today is important and you aren’t just doing a one-time umbrella policy prayer. You also (with brief human contact) let them know you are there and you care.

Simple hug, arm pat or the virtual equivalent (coupled with saying nothing)

Human contact is a stabilizer and a beginning healing point to anything related with human pain.


See the trend there of being human, validating the struggle, caring and being available?

…and frankly…That is all we need to do

Categories: August Diary Entry

Tags: , , ,

12 replies

  1. Thanks for this, Alycia. I know these people mean well, but in my opinion, chalking things up to some higher plan that we don’t understand acknowledges my pain not at all. The goal of these comments is to make you feel better, but frankly, when things really suck, you don’t want to feel better…not right away.

    Grieving and processing difficult circumstances take time. Let me have my wallowing time! It’s important, and as you’re saying, what I really want is for someone to honor the fact that I am experiencing special circumstances, that I might not be quite myself or able to take on my usual tasks, that I might need someone to release all this emotion to or a shoulder to cry on. I don’t want someone to make it all better, not until the difficult emotions have run their natural course.

    Thanks for having the guts to say this!

    • Thank you for that comment, Sue.

      You hit the nail on the head. Sometimes we DO need to wallow and we need somebody to be comfortable with it and let us know that it IS ok.

  2. I’m guilty of some of these, so thank you for laying it out like that. Instead of saying I will pray for you from now on I will implement the How can I pray for you with a hug. I think I’m prettty good with the hugs, but you’re right. I dont know specifically what to pray for other than you are hurting. Haviing a better, more purposeful prayer is better.

  3. Really good Alycia! As an agnostic I have rarely gotten into the god and prayer issues you mention here but have sometimes felt that is what the person wanted to hear from me. I think “I don’t understand either” is always THE PERFECT response and of course if I’m there in person a hug or pat says it all.

    Next time something bad happens to me I think I’ll ask folks to read this before leaving me a message!!

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