About the Author

A three-time tongue cancer survivor and mama of children from “hard places," Michele Cushatt is a (reluctant) expert on pain, trauma and the deep human need for connection. Her most recent book, "Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves", wrestles with the dogged presence and affection of...

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  1. Smiling ruefully here, because I can remember when I thought that the right words, sent on the right card, or spoken with enough compassion could change the course of a person’s suffering or loss. And I think God used that season (because nothing is wasted), and yet my takeaway from lots of mistakes is that the biggest gift we can give our suffering sisters is the words, “I’m so sorry,” and then our presence and patience with their pain.
    Thank you, Michele, for transforming your own experiences with suffering into words of encouragement and instruction.

    • Me too, Michele. Far too often I’m been so quick with meaningless solutions and cures, rather than simply mourning with my weeping friends. I’m learning …

  2. I have two I’m not sure I would call them examples but teachings that I learned from:
    My sister in law had cancer when she was pregnant with her second child. At the time physical distance separated us and I had small children and a newborn which prevented me from going home to help. One thing I learned from trying to comfort my brother over the phone was to listen and not use any I statements. After the I am sorry…people tend to make their pain (my brother and sister in laws pain) about themselves because they don’t know what to do…(not sure if I’ve explained it clearly). But trying to offer a solution in whatever way that is, as much as ‘we’ want to help is more damaging then just listening and it’s hard to know what someone needs in that time….

    God created a miracle and my sister in law is now cancer free and my nephew is a healthy 6 yr old boy.

    The second was today I woke up with anxiety. I went to the gym, went to a walk and constantly prayed and asked God to take it away. From looking up anxiety on the search box at incourage I found a 2017 post from Bonnie Grey and it helped me, encouraging passages from the bible and prompted me to go for another walk. Eventually God did take the anxiety away & I was able to make headway on an essay. I learnt to really trust God a little bit deeper today and He helped me through my pain, a different kind of pain but He was there!

    • When my sister in law had cancer, my brother said it was so hard when someone asked, “how are you feeling?” He said, you either lie and say fine or you tell them the truth and they feel bad. So, lesson learned for me—-I never ask how are you feeling.

      • Yes, those open ended questions are so difficult to answer when you’re in a place of suffering. One part of you wants to process with someone, but the other part of you knows the person asking can’t handle your honest answer. Thank you for reminding me of this, Leslie.

      • It’s so hard and how are you is such a common question, a greeting almost. Thank you for sharing x

    • Such beautiful, honest examples, Jas. Thank you for sharing. Your tenacity in trusting God to relieve your anxiety was an encouragement for me today. Sometimes we give up too soon, when we need to cling to Him all the tighter. Grateful for you.

  3. I may be stating the obvious, but this applies also to those with wounds we cannot see- that of mental anguish, depression, struggling to fit in, feeling left out, loneliness, and the list goes on. I love those statements above; they would fit perfectly when I am speaking to someone with something that can’t be X-rayed, operated on or clearly diagnosed, but just “is”. I must remember to fill that space with my presence, not my platitudes. This is so good- thank you!

    • Absolutely true, Beth. One of the most painful things we can say to someone dealing with depression, loneliness, etc. is “Well, if you would only …” We turn a person’s daily terror into some trite, AND we blame them for it at the same. time. And yet, if we would simply say “I’m so sorry; I can see how awful this is for you,” we might actually alleviate a small measure of the loneliness and despair. Whew … much to yet learn. Thanks for pointing this out, Beth. So helpful!

  4. Many years ago, suffering from deep emotional pain from the rejection and abuse of childhood, the Holy Spirit had me connect with another church and group unknown to me. I was immediately greeted with love and acceptance. It was hard to receive as I was not used to it, but I now realize, Jesus was letting me know His heart.

  5. Loved this! As I learn to grieve “correctly” after the tragic death of our son, 24, I find it easier some days to withdraw than welcome the “help” – because it’s often more painful. Just your presence makes a difference. To know you won’t run away, but be there in the mist of the pain and discomfort, is healing. Thanks for this today, Michelle.
    God be with you always.

    • Steffanie, my friend, I am so very sorry for your suffering. My heart aches with yours. Would you be willing to share a few things you loved most about your son? I’d love to honor his life in small measure here and hold space with you. With you, sister. xo

      • The things I loved most…it’s hard to narrow them down now. He had the most contagious smile and a great belly laugh. He was kind. He gave great hugs – and I especially loved his wonderful shoulder massages. He was a great Daddy. Devoted husband. A great son!!! If you’d like to read more, you may visit my blog at
        https://itcrossedmymind.blogspot.com

        Thanks for your response and for allowing me to share with you. ♥️

  6. Compassion is hard on the heart sometimes & we want to come-alongside, and words can feel inadequate, at times. Thanks for the reminder, that heart-felt words can be enough, and can make a difference to our hurting loved ones. ((hug))

  7. My brother is dying slowly from an incurable, debilitating disease, and his wife (and mother of their five-year-old son) is receiving chemo treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. I live several hours away, but am grateful to be able to go every other weekend (and stay with our 80+ year old parents) and cook and babysit and so on. When I have told my brother how sorry I am that he is/they are going through this, his reply is always, “It’s not your fault.” I’m learning instead to say, “I’m so glad to see you,” or “I’m so grateful to spend some time with you.”

    • Paula, I love how you paid attention to his responses and needs and made adjustments in order to serve HIM well. That’s a beautiful example of entering in to another’s suffering and simply “being there.” Thank you for teaching us from your experience!

  8. Michele,
    Thank-you for sharing your heartfelt story. I am sorry for your suffering, and if I could I would relay that sentiment to the gentleman with burns also. When I hear well intentional comments in regards to my son’s illness, comparisons, how to do it better, and so on, truthfully I feel a bit overwhelmed. But then I’ll hear from someone like one of his nurses with something positive to say, and that helps to ease some of it away. In general, I think people struggle with what’s the right thing to say when someone is suffering. But like in my son’s circumstance by trying to focus on what matters, it’s not that he wakes up with this everyday, but that God sees that he does. And for that I am so grateful.
    And for all that are suffering, I am truly sorry.
    Have a wonderful blessed day all,
    Penny

  9. You did, right here, right now! Thank you! Been here in pain for awhile, thank you for your love, just at the right time! He knows what we need when we need it ! So glad that you are one of His angels! Sorry for your pain! Happy that He is always here for us! Love in Christ to you and yours! Hugs! Thanks again! Love in Christ

  10. In answer to your question at the end of your wonderful post…my friend Deb. In Oct. of 1991, I was thirty-three years old and was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. When my friend, Deb, came to visit me at the hospital, she entered my room, walked over to the bed, climbed up on it and laid down next to me. No words. Just her loving presence. Through that simple gesture, I knew I wasn’t alone.

  11. Michele,

    The book of Job offers a good example. His three friends left their homes to go sympathize & comfort him. Upon seeing him they sat on ground with him for seven days without saying a word. Those actions speak volumes. Just being there for someone – listening or allowing them to cry on your shoulder may be what they need at that moment. People need to know they are loved & cared for in the midst of their trials & sufferings. Another thought is to offer help. Maybe take a meal over, help with errands or cleaning. Simple things that say I love you!

    To all who are suffering in any way I hear y you & pray for healing from the Master Healer! For those with cancer…I did a “road block” today to help raise funds. My efforts raised $150.00 to help find a cure.

    Blessings ❤

  12. Currently I am helping with a family health crisis. It’s not one of the familiar ones. It’s unique and frightening. It’s not going to go away anytime soon. So many people have reached out to help. So many people have unintentionally said things that hurt deeply. How am I any different? How many times have I been the one who spoke unhealing words? I have realized I have no idea what to say when sadness fills a person. So…..I’ll just bring food. Food made with my hands and consecrated through prayer. Food that will strengthen the body and mend the soul. Food that will speak louder than my words. Food that says softly I care, I’m sorry, I want to help. I will just bring food.