Dear Friends,

We’ve all used this phrase. In the last two years, perhaps we’ve said and heard it a little more often. When we say this to someone it is often out of politeness, or because we don’t really know what to say. It’s not a bad thing. No, it makes people feel heard because someone is acknowledging that they have been through something awful.

After that, there is often a silence. However, some wonderful people who have supported me throughout my difficult moments have opened my eyes to what you could say afterwards, or sometimes even instead of “I’m sorry.”

These can work for almost any of the conversations where your immediate response is “I’m sorry.” Any time after you’ve said that, or if the situation is appropriate, as the first response instead. They can be adapted depending on your physical distance and relation to the person.

Don’t worry about calling to update me. I’m going to call you every…. at ….. Is that an okay time?

Do you want to laugh or cry right now? We can do whichever you feel like.

Is it convenient for you if I bring over some food at …. o’clock? Is there anything you could eat?

Would you like help with any of the practical things? I am free to come over at …. and help clean up or cook something or drive you.

Photo by Kat Smith

Would it feel better for me to come over and be with you or would you just like space?

Do you want to be distracted with regular conversation, or do you want me to just listen to you?

Do you have the space for me talking about my own life or not?

It’s okay to be honest (as long as it’s not a life threatening emergency) In fact, it takes away the pressure from the other person having to wonder if they are bothering you: I’m very sorry but I am right in the middle of…….. In/at….. I will be able to give you my full attention that the situation deserves. Are you safe until then?

Would you like me to call someone for you? To either tell them the news or come and be with you? Who do you most want to speak with right now?

What do you need most from me? Practical support, emotional support or both?

You don’t need to do this alone. I will take you or call someone for you. Who makes you most comfortable?

I understand if you don’t want to talk about it now. Call or write to me whenever you feel ready. If you don’t reach out in a couple of weeks I might reach out to you to make sure you are still okay. Does that sound like a plan?

Thank you for telling me this.