34 Things to Say to Someone Who's Just Received Devastating News

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There are moments in life when we receive news that we aren’t quite sure how to process. Sometimes, we’re left feeling devastated. But having someone say just the right thing to you in that instant can change everything.

We asked our Mighty readers to tell us the best thing someone said to them when they received devastating news.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “‘He’s the same little boy you’ve loved from the beginning.’ We were told this after we received his diagnosis of Williams syndrome.” — Stacia McKeever

2. “We were in an elevator after just being told by a neurologist that our 21-month-old daughter had severe nonverbal autism. My husband looked at me while holding our baby and said, ‘It changes nothing.’” — Melissa Cote

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3. “After our daughter suffered from a metabolic crisis and devastating brain damage, one of the doctors said, ‘I am going to the wedding of a man who was my resident last year. He was born with devastating brain damage and wasn’t supposed to do anything. He proved everyone wrong.’ Our daughter is also proving everyone wrong.” — Anne-Marie Wurzel

4. We have each other. We have so much love to give. What else is there?” — Mariann Noonan Wilson

5. “I had a friend send a card that simply said,  ‘S#!t.’ No phony anything. It was where I was and what I wanted to hear. I wanted to know it was OK to not be OK yet.” — Jennifer Canaan Mustachio

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6. “‘The love you’re going to experience is a love that only a special few will experience. You will go through the rest of your life in deep struggles, emotionally and mentally, but the love that will continue to grow will guide you and help pull you through all obstacles. It’ll show you your true meaning of life.’” — Clinton Hansard

7. “You can’t put too much stock in everything doctors say. I’ve been at this 20 years and have seen so many things that should’ve never happened. ‘Never’ takes the ‘God factor’ out of it. And doctors don’t know everything. Including me.” Our ophthalmologist said this after we found out our daughter has polymicrogyria.” — Lyndse Marie Ballew

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8. “I don’t remember the conversation word-for-word, but my friend asked if I wanted to talk about it. I told her, ‘Not yet.’ She said something to the effect of ‘Let me know when you’re ready,‘ and then asked if I’d heard about some particular celebrity gossip. I needed for a moment to feel normal again, and she gave that to me while still leaving the door open to talk about what happened.” — Melissa Goodman

9. When she’s 20, it won’t matter when she walked; it will just matter that she did. Our physical therapist said this when we still weren’t sure if our daughter would walk. We take everything in ‘Ellie time’ now. It doesn’t matter when, just that one day she will do better than she does today.” — Amy Sherian

10. “‘Everything will be all right,’ said my 3-year-old daughter.” — Priya Jasper

11. “After learning my 1-year-old son with hearing loss also had muscular dystrophy and that we would be constantly battling to maintain some vision for him, my sister told me, ‘He will always know love and some people will never know that.’” — Kristen Taylor Linsky

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12. “On my first day back to work, a co-worker I only knew in passing hugged me and whispered in my ear, ‘I pray for you and your family every morning when I pray for my own.’ I later learned that she also recently lost her father in an accident.” — Laura Graff

13. “‘Take her home and love her,’ said our neurologist on discharge the day after our baby girl survived a severe brain injury.” — Candace Hamm

14. The person who said nothing but just listened to me ramble.” — Holly Stanton Morgan

15. “The neurologist said, “You didn’t do anything that made this happen, and you couldn’t have done anything to prevent it.’” — Sue Rutan Donald  

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16. Don’t waste time blaming yourself or waste energy trying to figure out how it happened. The best thing you can do now is help her to build strength with therapy, and she will progress at her own pace.” Our neurologist said this after my daughter’s periventricular leukomalacia diagnosis. And I have never looked back. Only forward.” — Hope Martinson

17. “‘That sucks.’” — Amy Johansen

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18. “After we were told our son wouldn’t see adulthood, a friend of ours searched the Internet, made contact with another mom who has two boys with the same condition and asked her to list all the positives. Then my friend showed up out of the blue with that list, photos and contact details for that family. In my friend’s words, ‘I didn’t want to be here to cry for Ethan, I wanted to show you hope is alive and well, see.’ She handed me the details with tears in her eyes. She’s been my friend since I was 13, and the other family living in England have been my friends since 2008. There’s nothing I can do to repay my friend, but I’ll never ever forget what she done for me.” — Geraldine Renton

19. ‘You’re about to embark on the most amazing adventure,’ said our developmental medicine doctor who specialized in Down syndrome for 50 years.” — Melanie Perkins McLaughlin

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20. “After my son was born four months early and given a 4 percent chance of healthy survival, a nurse said, ‘I know this wasn’t what you were expecting, but congratulations!’ She was the first one to acknowledge that we had just had a baby and that deserved to be celebrated.” — Andrea ‘Dolney’ Mullenmeister

21. “A friend and her husband said, ‘We’re here for you. We want to help.’ And they kept their promise.” — Michelle Kelman Friel

22. “My sister said, ‘Let’s do some research.’ She knows me so well and knows all I need is information and then there is nothing to worry about. The unknown is the only scary part.” — Kerry Sautner

23. “‘The scenery on your path will be different than you imagined but not any less beautiful.’ The best advice.” — Lisa Hanna

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24. “A church friend asked me how I was. Before I could answer, we locked eyes, I started to tear up, and she said, ‘No, don’t answer,’ and hugged me tight. It was a real moment; all she gave me was love, not empty words.” — Lynn Siegler

25. “After my son was diagnosed with brain cancer the doctor turned to us and said, ‘I can’t tell you what to do, but if it were me, I would fight it. I would at least try.‘ So we did. He was given less than a 10 percent chance of survival beyond the first year. He lived 5 years more. It was out best decision ever.” — Leenadria Barros

26. “My baby’s pediatric neurosurgeon said, ‘My colleagues and I have never sat around the table at lunch comparing how old we were when we first sat or crawled.’ I was worried the baby would have serious physical and mental delays with spina bifida and a Chiari malformation diagnosis that would affect adulthood and career opportunities.” — Michelle Atwood

27. “‘There’s nothing wrong with that baby,’ said my dad when I gave him the news about my daughter’s Down syndrome diagnosis.” — Ruth Fannin

28. “‘I don’t care if there comes a day when you don’t remember me, Stacey, I will always love you and be there for you.‘ I was told this when dealing with memory loss due to my epilepsy.” — Stacey Ann Olson

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29. “When my mom died three years ago, a friend of mine messaged me. She lost her mom a while before, and she said, ‘I hope you have a day. And then another day. And even then another. Eventually you’ll have OK days. And some time after that you’ll have better days, good days. One day, maybe when you’re not expecting it, you’ll find that you’re having a great day. You’ll cry less. And the good days will outnumber the bad.‘ I carry those words with me when times are hardest for me.” — Amber Ford Rempel

30. Challenge accepted.” — Monica Ronghi Donnelly

31. “After our son was diagnosed with autism his pediatrician told me, ‘He is going to be just fine, and so are you.‘ I didn’t believe her at first, but a year later and with wonderful support, I believe her!” — Bridget Augustine

32. “Right after our unborn baby was diagnosed with the most severe form of spina bifida, I ran into another mom who had an older child with it at the grocery store. She was my friend and she said, ‘Congratulations.‘ At the time I was a little confused by it, but now realize all the positives that have come from our child having his diagnosis. It’s taken me a while to see that, but she’s right. I’m so glad she was positive when all we were seeing, hearing and feeling was negative.” — Carrie Fabian Holt

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33. “I was venting to a couple friends who have kids around the same age as my son. I was taking about how worried I was about my son being a target of bullying. Immediately, my one friends says, ‘Oh don’t even worry, he will have his buddies to protect him.’ They all chimed in and agreed. One said ‘Our sons will be like his body guards. We will raise them to always watch out for him.’ I still cry thinking about it.” — Staisha Brazington

34. You are not alone.” — Wendy Scranton Baumert

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 What are some things people have told you in your time of need? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Words of Advice for the Future Dad About to Receive a Bewildering Diagnosis

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Hey, you. Yeah you, the one there in the waiting room getting ready to go in to see your child’s ultrasound. You don’t know this yet, but you are about to get some news that will change your life forever. Something’s not right in there. They won’t know what, exactly, until your child is 6 months old, but that’s OK. It won’t sink in right away, and you will deny it. But it’s true, and it’s going to be OK.

The doctors don’t have the answers you desperately need to make this situation OK. You’ll have to be patient and find them yourself. In the end, your daughter is the one who will give them to you. Yes, she’s a girl. She will be Daddy’s little angel. You will name her that, and time will demonstrate that the name is perfect and has more meaning than you expected when you thought of it.

You and her mom will deal with this in different ways. It won’t be the only reason, but it won’t help, and your relationship won’t survive. It’ll hurt, but time will show that that’s OK, too.

You know that saying you always use, the one that comes out without you even thinking? Almost like it’s a reflex? “Dude, that’s retarded!” You will realize it isn’t as funny and harmless as you thought. That realization will creep up on you. It will seed itself into you as you frantically try to understand what the doctors are saying about Angel and you keep hearing the words “mild to moderate mental retardation.” The realization will bloom the first time you hear someone else say the R-word and you cringe as you realize what they are saying — they’re using the word to describe something innocent and stupid. Be patient with them. They won’t get it, just like you don’t now.

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The doctors will tell you, “your child will never _______.” (Walk, talk and many other milestones.) You won’t know it, but that’s the best thing they can tell you. It will hit you hard, stick like a lump in your throat and sit in your gut. There it will fester, and that little voice in your head, you know, the one reading this to you right now, will repeat those words back to you a million times until you stop it and vow to prove them wrong. A determination to do so will grow, and you will prove them wrong. When you do, it will give you more pride than you ever thought possible. In hindsight, could that have been their intentions all along? Did they know your determination would be the reason you made it there, and without it they may have been right? Did they intentionally light that fire to help you through?

You’re probably thinking, “I’m not strong enough for this.” And you’re right. You’re not, but that’s OK because your baby girl has enough strength for you both. She’ll get you there. She will be fine — not by your current definition of the word, but your definition of “fine” will change along with your definitions for almost everything you think you know about life. You are prepared to begin your role as a teacher and teach Angel all about life, but you are preparing for the wrong role. You are the student, and Angel is coming to teach you what life is all about. She will teach you so many things and will do so without ever saying a single word. Make sure you take notes, because she will be the best teacher you ever had.

At first it will seem like she’s not making any progress on anything. She’s stubborn, and no matter how hard you push her, she won’t do things on your or anyone else’s timeline. She has her own timeline. Just be patient and keep offering the opportunities. Remember, even though it’s hard to tell sometimes, there is a child her age inside there.

Now get up out of that waiting room chair, go meet Angelina and start the most important journey you’ll ever take. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth every minute and every tear. In a few short months, you will witness the birth of an Angel with your last name.

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The Time My Daughter Proved ‘Because She Can’t’ Wrong

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There’s a sentence I am trying to take out of my vocabulary; it has been there since she was born: “Because she can’t.”

I found myself saying it a lot when her brother would whine that she was getting special help or attention. He would point out that we did it for her or she got away with this or that. He wanted to know why it was different for him; I didn’t know how to explain it at times, and sometimes I didn’t want to, so my response was usually “because she can’t.” But why can’t she do it? Just because I was assuming that she can’t, I wasn’t even entertaining the thought that she might be able to do it.

I never planned to get in her way, and I want her to fall; it’s the only way she will learn how to get back up. But I find myself doing things for her, many times not even letting her try first.

I was focused on what the doctors said, but also the things I was learning about her condition, when people said things like, “They may never walk, talk or do anything a typical child does as they grow.” I didn’t expect to celebrate the same milestones we did with our first child. Again, that sentence “because she can’t” was dictating my actions, thoughts and opinions.

Then one day I turned my back for a second, and there she was on the third step of the stairs. My throat filled with a lump for so many different reasons, fear being one of them, but mostly because she did it and kept doing. She climbed the stairs, stood up, and turned a page in a book. She started butt-scooting to get where she needed or wanted to go. She was doing all the things I didn’t think she would.

She was proving me and everyone else wrong. She wasn’t just hitting the milestones; she was leaving them in the dust. She, like others who face a barrier, decided she could and would.

This is where my view on disability started to changed. I see disability much differently now. It is right in front of my face every day. I am learning that everyone can do, but sometimes in a different way. I am learning that I was as unaware, misguided and misinformed as most people tend to be, whether on purpose or not.

Michael J. Fox said”

“If a child can’t learn the way we are teaching them, then we must teach them the way they can learn.”

I can see the ability in disability now, and it is a fascinating thing. It puts me to shame and makes me re-think the complaints, vents and pity parties I have had for myself. It is a very inspiring and surreal experience when you watch someone not only thrive, but surpass the expectations of everyone else.

It has gotten easier to stop focusing on the disability with the help of those around us, especially her classmates. They accept her for her, they don’t ask questions, and when they do, a simple “Because she was born with it” is all it takes. They don’t seem to notice the difference and it makes me wonder, is there really a difference? Would they see it if not for the adults in their lives shushing them and scolding them?

When I look at her, I do what the kids in her class have taught me… I see her. I have stopped comparing her to others. I have stopped thinking she can’t and believing she can. I think a part of me knew I needed to see things in a different light and step back in part because of her, but also because of her brother. I didn’t want him to get lost or lose his voice in the midst of everything.

I am a mother first and there are decisions I need to make for both my children. I will always reach before I think, speak before I reflect, and doubt every decision I make, while  praying that they will understand that everything I did was for two reasons: Gavyn and Harley.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one moment that changed the way you view a disability or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post [email protected] include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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My Daughter’s Brilliant 2-Word Response to Her Sister Being ‘Different'

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“So what. So what if she’s a little smaller than other people. So what if she eats through a feeding tube. So what if she isn’t crawling or talking like other babies her age. She’s just fine the way she is and everybody’s different.”

If you’ve ever wondered what a 6-year-old thinks about having a sibling with complex medical needs, there you have it. “So what” is what they (or, at least, my 6-year-old) think.

My husband and I try to share age-appropriate information about our youngest daughter, Ava’s, health conditions as openly as we can with our oldest daughter, to try and allay her fears and prepare her for the inevitable questions and responses from others about her.

Part of our preparation has included equipping her with the words that she might use to help others understand and respect her sister as she grows up. We’ve had lots of conversations over the past seven months of Ava’s life about health issues, individual strengths and differences, how each of us needs help in various ways throughout our lives, yet I was completely unprepared for the depth of the response from Olivia about this recently.

We were fresh off the heels of a terrible incident at a nearby middle school, where a young man with autism had been severely beaten by a classmate, so bullying was in the forefront of my mind, and I decided it was time to talk about it.

“Olivia, we don’t know what Ava is going to continue to face as she gets older. Chances are she may be a little bit smaller than most other people. It may take her a little while longer than other babies to learn to talk or walk. We don’t know when her feeding tube is going to be removed. What do you think you might say when a friend or even someone you don’t know notices these things about your sister and says something about it?”

I can tell you exactly where I was standing in our kitchen, preparing dinner that evening when I asked her this poignant question and I struggled to hold back my tears as she responded. Olivia is one of the brightest, kindest, most compassionate children I’ve ever known, yet her reply caught me off-guard. I don’t know what I was expecting her to say, but I do know that over the past seven months, my greatest fear, besides Ava’s health, has been that Olivia is being put through too much in the midst of our difficulties and she might grow to resent her sister or the health problems that have led us here.

I never wanted her to be in the position of being the big sister to a sibling with health issues. I never wanted her to see her sister struggle to breathe, to eat, to grow, to develop. I never wanted her to be fearful of doctor appointments because they can lead to hospital stays. I never wanted her to have to be equipped at the tender age of 6 on how to fend off bullying remarks about her sister.

Most of all, I never wanted her to see her sister as someone who is defined by her health issues and the obstacles they have created. And guess what? She doesn’t. Her “so what” response was so heartfelt, so genuine, that I know she sees Ava as the unique individual that we believe God created, needs, obstacles, and all, and she adores her. As is.

I may never have wanted either of my daughters to experience what they have in the past seven months, but I am so thankful that what I wanted more than anything for them as sisters – a bond, a love, and a deep appreciation for one another’s strengths and needs – are gifts that have been cultivated in the midst of our difficulties.

And on the days when I struggle with what Ava is facing and what the future may hold, I now hold tightly to Olivia’s words. “So what… she’s just fine the way she is and everybody’s different.” Thank you, Olivia, for your wise reminder.

The Mighty wants to read more stories about siblings, whether it’s your favorite memory or a tough moment that taught you something. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post [email protected] include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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To Any Special Needs Mom Who's Having One of Those Days

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Today is hard.

Today I want to run away, just leave. I want to start over somewhere far, far away. Today I feel like I can’t take one more diaper change, one more meltdown, one more “Mommy is mean!”

I’m tired of being the bad guy. It would be nice, for once, if my kids ran to me instead of my husband when things don’t go their way. Mommy is always the bad guy in my house. Today I don’t want to have a giant lump in my throat from wanting to cry out of frustration.

Last week I had to attend those awful Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meetings. My daughter had her testing done. There were 22 pages of things I didn’t want to know. The anxiety leading up to these meetings is horrible. Do they think I’m a bad mother? Am I doing enough? Why is it that at school she’s so different?

It must be me. Why, when I used to have so many real live friends, do I have none? Why am I so socially awkward now? When I do have social interaction, I don’t have anything to talk about. I don’t fit in anymore.

I don’t go to the gym in my cute matching outfits and a perfect pony tail. I can’t go to lunch with friends. I don’t get to have my nails done or go shopping. My house is a constant disaster, because God forbid I move a toy and “mess up the party.” My tiny child runs my house. A tiny tyrant.

I’m the lady you see with screaming kids, yoga pants and snot smeared on my shirt.Oh, and for anyone who thinks yoga pants are sexy, let me tell you, they’re not.

I think there are other mothers out there like me. Drowning in a sea of frustration and confusion. Afraid to say what’s really going on because in this world of social media, we all have to be happy with our perfect families, clean homes and fun Pinterest boards for our kids for rainy days. Well, other moms, I’m here. Just like you, trying to get through one more day.

Maybe tomorrow will be better. One day I will hopefully look back and think “Wow, those were some hard years. But I made it through,” and I will smile.

[Thanks for letting me vent to y’all. The day I wrote this was a bad day. I would like to also say this: Along with the bad days, I have some very good ones, like watching the unexplainable joy and love I experienced at a Special Olympics track meet. Hundreds of kids, smiling. True, giant happy smiles and so much love I thought my heart would burst! Things like that are what gets me through.]

A small girl, wearing a medal and holding a cup, waves at camera

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