I have big feet. Like, size 8 big feet. I seldom paint my toenails bright colours because there is just SO MUCH surface area. On a normal woman, pink toenails look sweet and summery. On me, it looks like I spilled paint on my feet.
This, however, is not my primary problem. My main defect is how often I put my large foot in my even larger mouth. I’ll say something I’m not supposed to, or blurt out what everyone is thinking but has the good sense to keep quiet. I’ve spent many a dinner party getting kicked under the table by my husband who is basically telling me to STOP TALKING. I’ll ask someone who is buyer for a major clothing range if they really get their clothes from sweatshops, or talk about how women get paid 28% less then men for doing the same job.
As you can imagine, these conversations are about as fun as the mall the week before Christmas.
Knowing what to say and when to say it is quite the art, I am learning.
I recently had a lesson in this life skill, but not the way you may think.
Last weekend, I went to a baby shower. I know. You already feel sorry for me, but this one wasn’t that bad. There were no eat-melted-chocolates-out-of-nappies games, and the glowing mama-to-be didn’t have to guess what was inside every gift.
I even made choc chip cookies for the special event.
With an oven.
I know. Who even is this amazing woman?
Anyway, at one point I was chatting to one of the few women there who did not have children. This isn’t by choice, and she has had some heart-breaking miscarriages. Despite risking putting one of my Big Feet into my notoriously Big Mouth, I decided to go with my gut instinct and I asked her, “How are these things for you?”
She told me that she only went to baby showers of people she really loved, as they were hard mornings. She told me how she didn’t want to be excluded from something important in their lives. But then, she turned to me with big eyes, and said, “You know, Jess, you are the first person who has ever asked me how I feel at baby showers. Thank you!”
I was quite surprised that it meant so much to her, and she told me more. Like when she had her miscarriage there were people who deliberately avoided her. When they saw her coming, they walked the other way. When she lost a baby, there were people who knew about it but never, ever mentioned the experience.
A few days later, I had almost the exact conversation when I dropped my son off at school. His teacher’s son tragically died a few weeks ago, and she shared with me how her daughter’s closest friends have just shut her out. They don’t phone, they don’t message, and this young girl is hurting so much more than necessary.
As I looked at the hurt and disappointment in this teacher’s eyes, I remembered the same look from my friend. It just hit me.
When someone you know has lost a loved one, or faces an exceptionally overwhelming situation, say Something. Please don’t pretend like you don’t know. Please don’t ignore the most real thing that is happening to them.
Just say Something. Even if it’s, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I don’t know what to else to say.”
Send a message, cook a meal, pop in for a visit.
They’ve already lost something, now they lose a friendship or a connection that brings joy and love into their lives? They’ve already had an experience that makes them feel different from you, now you’re adding distance in your relationship? Grief is a lonely experience, and if you don’t know what it feels like, don’t pretend like you do. But for goodness sake, don’t ignore them. They need you more than ever before.
I’ve heard Foot in Mouth Disease is highly contagious. And perhaps, like me, you won’t always get the timing right or the exact words when you open your mouth to say Something. You may even miss the mark completely and get a kick from someone under the table. But, honestly, I think that in most cases, Something is better than Nothing.
So say Something.
Counselling and Support
If you or someone you know needs support and counselling, please visit www.gracecounselling.org.za. This is an open-access resource to aid all forms of counselling from church based, volunteer driven counsellors to professionals in the private sector. From support groups for things such as addictions, grief or parenting to support courses aiding healing like Divorce Care, or GriefShare.