From the Front Lines: What to Write, What to Say

One way to be on the front lines with someone is to tell them.

Tell them you feel sorrow at their grief.

I learned that this is helpful because of how I felt when people left notes of encouragement and support on our Caring Bridge blog or when someone handed me a handwritten note or when someone said just the right words; however, when someone we know is struggling with a trial, it can be difficult to know what to say. Sometimes it feels so difficult that we say nothing at all for fear of saying something offensive or trite. After having struggled in a more public way with Claire’s illness and having many, many people write or say wonderful things, I’d like to share some ideas with you on what you can write or say to someone you love who is even now walking a difficult path. I offer my suggestion in bold, and then exact examples of words people wrote to our family.

Express your own faith in prayer, in God, in Christ:

1.       “My heart is aching for you right now, but I know that prayers are helping and that you are not alone in this battle. God does heal and He does make miracles happen.”
2.       “We love you and have so much faith in Christ and in Claire's recovery.”
3.       “I know that we learn from these challenges and gain strength we never knew we had, often after we pass through the most difficult part. I know the Lord will be there for you during the difficult days ahead.”
4.       “We fasted and prayed for your family today and I felt a peace in my heart for you.”
5.       “If this is what Heavenly Father wants you to be doing right now, then He will be sure to hold your hand through all of this.”

Express confidence in their faith and ability to overcome:

1.       “It is amazing to see such a strong spirit in Claire. I know I would not be that happy.”
2.       “My prayers are with you! Claire is one of those special little ones in this world. She's strong, happy and beautiful and we will all learn by watching the healing power of the priesthood and the hand of the Lord to heal her.”
3.       “It is so hard to know why our children have afflictions come upon them and it's heartbreaking to see them suffering. It's comforting to know that there is a reason and a purpose grander than we can understand to all of this. One day you will understand why but in the meantime you are doing all the right things. The Lord will not leave you in your time of need!
4.       “Thanks for sharing your testimony and all the insights you are receiving. Your faith strengthens mine.” 
5.       “You can do this!”

Offer help:

1.       “We stand at the ready for anything you may need!  Babysitting?  It's what I do best :)”
2.       “Please know we are here for you in any way you may need.”

Offer a quote that comforts you:

1.       “Sometimes God calms the storm... Sometimes, He lets the storm rage and calms the child.” 
2.       “There are those among you who, although young, have already suffered a full measure of grief and sorrow. My heart is filled with compassion and love for you . . . Though it may seem that you are alone, angels attend you. Though you may feel that no one can understand the depth of your despair, our Savior, Jesus Christ, understands. He suffered more than we can possibly imagine, and He did it for us; He did it for you. You are not alone.” – President Uchtdorf
3.       “Today is ours to live, but His to control . . .”

Write to them the words you are using in your prayers for them:

1.       “We are also praying for your parents and other family members that they will have the health, strength and courage they need to help you get better.”
2.        “We will be thinking of you all through this difficult time and pray that you will feel peace and know that Heavenly Father is in control.”
3.       “May our Heavenly Father continue to hold your family in His arms and may you continue to feel the angels around your own little angel as she progresses with her treatment and all else that might be required of her.”

Express your own sadness that they are struggling:

1.       “We are stunned by your news but totally inspired by your response, your faith and your courage. You are in our prayers and thoughts.”
2.       “The news is quite heartbreaking, but I'm glad to hear that the prognosis is promising. She has loving, strong parents too!
3.       “This news made my heart hurt and I am so sorry for this to have happened to your sweet family!  Know that our prayers and thoughts will be with your family.  We love you guys.”  

Tell them you are praying for them:

1.       “We LOVE you guys.  Our kids are making Claire a permanent part of our daily prayers.  We'll be joining in the fast this weekend as well.”
2.       “We are thinking of you and praying for your comfort and strength.
3.       “We are praying for you daily.  Every time we mention Claire, my little girl is sure to say "Claire is sick...pray".  I'm sure the faith of these little children, Claire included, will be the driving force to recovery.”

Tell them you are sharing in the challenge:

1.       “If I could possibly take this challenge away from you and endure it myself, I would.  But since that is not how it is supposed to be, we will all endure this together.”  
2.       “Look around and know you are adored and appreciated.  We are all with you.”
3.       “I wish I could hug you right now and give you a little break. I hope you know that we care enough to hear when things are not so great. Thanks for posting.”

Even now, months away from Claire’s complete recovery, these words mean something deep to me. I treasure them and am so glad that the people who wrote them had the courage to share them with me. I learned from these very supportive friends, family members, and in some cases, strangers.

Caring words written or said in love are medicine for the injured soul.


Happy Mother's Day!

                                              Me 8 1/2 months pregnant on Mother's Day 2013
Last weekend we visited my parents in Denver. The girls were thrilled that we spent the night, played at the park, and had Grandma and Grandpa all to ourselves. They were so happy to be there that when I announced our plans to leave the next morning, they were quite distraught.

Until I told them Grandma would send them off with a small bag of miniature marshmallows. Things were okay then.

Even so, as my mom waved good-bye to us from the front porch just as her parents used to wave to me as we pulled away from the haven that was their home, Claire was concerned for me. On this particular trip she had really internalized that Grandma and Grandpa were my own mom and dad. She then wanted to talk about Daddy’s mom and dad – Gangy and Pop Pop. It seemed to be on her mind throughout our little stay. So, as Grandma waved and Claire thoughtfully munched on her marshmallows, she said:


“Yes, Claire?”

“I miss Grandma.”

“I know, Babe. We’ll be back to visit. We’ll see Grandma and Grandpa soon.”




“Don’t you miss Grandma and Grandpa? Don’t you miss your mom and dad?”

And, then it clicked in my mind. However shallowly or deeply, Claire had realized that I, like her, used to live with my mom and dad. Now, I don’t. Don’t I miss them, she wondered.

Her question to me stung because even if it was on a very basic level, I think she knew that someday she won’t live with us. She’s talked about it several times since that drive, and I know she’s processing this somewhat distressing piece of truth – children don’t live with their parents forever.

At least not in this life.

I have also been processing this truth – what it means for me as a mother myself now, what it meant for my own mom, and what it meant for my mother-in-law. What it means to any mother who has already or will one day say goodbye to living with her child.

In this week before mother’s day, I have read many essays and thoughts and posts on the topic of mother’s day. Many feel guilt that they are not now doing or have not done enough. Others are overcome with joy at being celebrated for work that often goes unnoticed. Some feel sadness or even deep despair that they are not yet a mother. Some say they’ve never felt that mother’s day was about them, that it is about their own mother. Whatever your thoughts on mother’s day, mine have never been complicated – even struggling with infertility, I don’t think I felt more or less valued on this day celebrating the mothering, nurturing women in my life. I do feel a very strong emotion now, though. On this particular mother’s day.


My little girls still live with me. I get to see them every day and participate in and witness their lives simply because I’m their mother. That alone might be worth the infertility struggles, the pregnancy battles and scars, and the frustrating moments of parenthood.

I still have many years to live with these children. Side-by-side. And, to me, that’s something to celebrate.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who care for others in this sometimes confusing, frustrating, wonderful life. May you find something or someone to celebrate today.