Words are powerful tools that we use throughout our days; they can be sweet and comforting and sometimes inadvertently painful. Words have the power to build up or tear down, and they can be stocked away in our memory banks.
I remember a time when I was young and wanted white boots like Nancy Sinatra, they were all the rage, and a lot of the girls were getting them. Fresh out of Tennessee and into the third grade in California, getting those exact boots wasn’t in the cards for me. So a ‘close’ resemblance seemed it would do the trick until the next day at school and some of the girls made fun of me because they weren’t the ‘cool’ boots. Can you believe I can still hear the laughter and the words from all those years ago? Don’t worry, I actually don’t like white boots anymore, and I didn’t need to go into therapy over it. But those words made a lasting impact.
As a family caregiver, have you ever found yourself exhausted, running on an empty tank and lashed out at your loved one? How about the words that you speak to yourself? Those times when you wish you had done something differently, handled a situation with your loved one in a different manner and continue to beat yourself up for not saying doing the ‘right’ thing at the ‘right’ time?
Perhaps your loved one experiences a significant setback or disappointment, how we respond is imperative. We need to be careful not to dismiss their pain or frustration. There are ways to phrase responses such as “I can only imagine that might be difficult for you, and if there is something that I can do, please let me know.” It’s also important not to lecture them on what they should have done or could have managed things differently. “You know Dad; if you had stopped going down those stairs at night, this never would have happened.”
Our words are powerful and often create a lasting impact. And we all stumble with them, blurt out the wrong things at the wrong time even with the best of intentions.
Words can create, and they can destroy. Encourage, reassure as much as you can and listen. To yourself, too.