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Keeping the connection: What to say when life strikes a loved one

Communicating love is an anecdote to life's blows. Here are several suggestions to help you better communicate during the hard times.
Heather Merrill, FamilyShare Modified: August 18, 2014 at 7:43 pm •  Published: August 21, 2014

Death. Divorce. Job loss. Words that make us cringe. And words that creep into the walk-and-talks and lunch-dates with those we love most.

And when life-shaking events happen to our loved ones we want to be comforting, loving and supportive. And so we dole out, "I'm sorry," "It'll be OK," and "Hang in there."

All good sentiments.

But according to a couple of psychiatrists: Stress can cause illness. Through the extensive research of Holmes and Rahe we see the link between someone we love going to jail and the flu that keeps us “locked-up” at home for two weeks.

Our bodies become weakened when hard things happen.

But communicating love is a super-power anecdote. And strangely there are few better ways to verbally convey love then by asking a question.

So, what does the transmission of love through a question sound like? Here are a few examples:

Your friend tells you her mom died.

Instead of saying, "I'm sorry," ask, "How are you feeling?"

For close relationships consider questions such as, "How long have you known?" or "What are your next steps?"

Your brother tells you he's getting divorced.

Skip right over "I'm sorry," "What a relief," or "You'll find someone else," and go for the relationship building, "How are you holding up?"

For extra-tight relationships you could even ask, "How did this come about?" or "How are the kids doing?"

Your friend's husband loses his job.

Instead of saying, "I'm sorry," "What a pain," or "He'll find another job," go directly to, "How are you doing?"

If you're bosom buddies you may want to ask, "When did you find out?" or "How do you get back up after something like this?"

And the great thing about these questions is they work for most situations. Whether a loved one is facing a cancer diagnosis, bankruptcy, imprisonment, a move or the prospect of an empty nest — each question communicates: I love you. I trust your choices. I'm here for you.

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