I recently watched the movie Still Alice. This Academy Award-winning film tells the story of Alice, a 50-something college professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
In a short, poignant scene toward the middle of the film, Alice's daughter Lydia asks about her experience with Alzheimer's
Alice tells her daughter:
"Well, it's not always the same. I have good days and bad days, and on my good days I can, you know, almost pass for a normal person. But on my bad days, I feel like I can't find myself. . . . I can see the words hanging in front of me and I can't reach them and I don't know who I am. And I don't know what I'm going to lose next."
After a moment, Lydia replies with just two words:
Alice smiles a little and says, "Thanks for asking."
The words "Sounds horrible" might not sound caring, but actually they convey tremendous empathy and compassion.
All too often, when someone shares painful feelings, we're so anxious to help the person feel better that we downplay that pain. Lydia could have done that, saying something like:
• "Try to focus on the good days, not the bad."
• "There could be a medical breakthrough at any time."
• "You need to stay positive!"
Instead, Lydia validates and shares in her mother's feelings—which was just what Alice needed right then.
So the next time someone shares about a painful situation, something like "Sounds horrible" might be just the right thing to say.