Because bad news isn’t supposed to be good

Image: Nicholas Kampouris

I have a loved one who just got some bad news, health-wise. It’s not horrible-bad, but there’s no need to put lipstick on a pig here — it’s bad.

As this person was telling me the diagnosis, the energy fell out of the room. Whooomp. This person is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sibling. Ugh.

Now, no matter how good I feel I am at having conversations, it’s never damn easy to be in that space. That space where someone, at their core, is truly going through existential turmoil. Some people mask it with smiles and assurances. Others wear their emotions on their sleeves and shed their tears right in front of you. But both are spinning inside.

It sucks for both parties. But we add to the suckiness from the knee-jerk urge to want to rush in and make it better. Right damn now. We want to offer words of assurance and tell them it’s going to be okay. Just anything — throw something on it. Salve the huge gaping emotional wounds popping up everywhere in the room. We need to be perfect for them! Don’t fuck this up. Fix it, damn it, fix it!

But here’s the thing. This conversation is NOT SUPPOSED to be an easy one. Can you imagine if it was?…

Oh, you have an incurable, exotic, flesh eating, autoimmune disease, huh? That’s GREEEEAT! It’ll be fiiiiine…

No!!!!!!

Now — this person is one of the strongest, brightest, most positive, spirited people I know. At the depth of my being I know she’ll be fine no matter what happens.

But what if we could just sit there and be humanly awkward about it — on purpose? What if we were okay with being shitlessly scared? If we weren’t trying to be so damn perfect for each other, would these kinds of conversations be any easier? Would we be able to, after some toiling, get to a place of greater connection and healing?

I think so. Although it’s never easy. Perfectly uneasy. As it should be.


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