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Do No Harm to Those You Love

In my work, I have witnessed many beautiful words of consolation and comfort gone awry.

Practice
“Please don’t say ‘everything will be OK’.”

“Please don’t say ‘everything will be OK’.” - Graham Franciose

“Well, it’s better that this happened now, rather than having a baby born with all sorts of medical problems.” My face flushed. I jerked the phone away from my ear and stared at it. I had to catch my breath for a few moments.  I had just shared the news that my 10-week pregnancy would not go forward because the fetus was “not viable.” My well-meaning friend had listened to my sorrow and disappointment. But then, for whatever reason—fatigue from the intensity of the sadness, needing to wrap up the conversation but wanting to end on a cheerier note—she moved on to interpret what had happened to me and find the silver lining. That’s when the help of the conversation went to harm. “No!” I exclaimed. “What’s better is that I could have this pregnancy go forward and have a healthy baby. There is no ‘better’ about this happening.” By this time I had served as both a hospital chaplain and a church minister, and I knew that sometimes attempts to comfort others inadvertently add insult to injury. I knew that, on top of initial sadness or fear, unskillful “comforting” words can bri …

Rev. Kristin Miles is Director for Pastoral Care and Community at Trinity Church Wall Street in Manhattan.


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