Those Closest To Us Hurt Us The Most


Those closest to us hurt us the most. Maybe it’s because they say foolish things in an effort to protect us or because they know us so well, they know what “button” to push to hurt us, or feel the freedom to speak too freely! Those in our outer circles, whom we don’t know well, may randomly hurt us for the moment with their actions or words, but we can more easily brush that off because we don’t have the same level of closeness to them as to our close friends and family.

When our son was initially diagnosed with mental retardation and cerebral palsy, a patient of my husband sent us a lovely card sharing a scripture verse to encourage us about remaining strong in the Lord and waiting upon Him. It was truly a sweet encouragement. What was hurtful, was some years later, she made a comment to us about the miscarriage of her grandchild, saying, “I know my daughter is having a hard time going through this miscarriage, but God probably took the baby because it might have had all kinds of problems. That would have meant a lifetime of troubles for them.” That comment left us feeling like a child with problems was disposable. Besides, what happened to “wait upon the Lord?”

If someone says, “I feel like such a retard,” in the presence of one who is retarded, or in the company of parents who live with and daily care for a child (or adult child) with mental retardation, it is really hard to hear much after those words. If that comes out of your mouth, it’s really best to apologize, and then move on in the conversation. Don’t pretend we didn’t hear it – we did.

And now, the one you’ve all been waiting for – “God gave you this child because He knew you could handle it. I could never deal with what you are going through.” Hold us back! Honestly, we have never felt that we were special in any way. Ever! Like others in the situation of caring for a child with special needs, none of us are ever encouraged by that comment. We usually respond something like, “No, we’re not special. God just needed to teach us something we could only learn this way.”

Are you wondering what things might be good to say to those handling the challenges of a child or family member with special needs? Here are a few choices to consider:

  • “I can’t imagine (unless you have a similar situation) what you must do on a daily basis. I appreciate (if you mean it) the heart of compassion I see in you. Your child is blessed to have such care.”
  • “You seem to really have it together, but I imagine your life has many challenges. What do you do for yourself that you really enjoy? What does your child enjoy?”
  • “Your child is beautiful (even if a child has a facial deformity, the parent thinks their child is beautiful…comment on something other than the deformity…the pretty eyes or curly hair, sweet disposition, smile, etc.)

Words of encouragement to the caregiver will be welcomed and appreciated. Thinking ahead to what you’ll say is better than blurting out the first thing that comes into your head. We will all make the mistake of saying something we wished we didn’t, but when we do, make the correction or apology, and know the caregiver will welcome the honesty!

Cindi Ferrini


  1. says

    Thank you, Cindi. You would think that being the parent of a child with disability that I wouldn’t need today’s great advice from your blog, but nope. I still find myself wondering what to say at times that will be an encouragement to another because hurtful issues can be so different from person to person and can be like hidden land mines! Thank you for the reminder that the best thing is always to be quick to apologize if we accidentally step on a tender subject. I really like the last encouragement suggestion you made, though. I like to focus on some aspect of the child’s character or trait that I can genuinely praise…I know how much it means to me when someone does likewise. Thank you!! –kelli

    • says

      Thanks, Kelli for your kind words of encouragement. We all need these reminders from time to time and I hope others will share this so others will learn to make the right choices in their words…. THANKS for joining us here!

  2. Kim says

    I had someone say to me after I miscarried that God doesn’t want you to have a child that is damaged. My mouth probably hit the floor since I had Samuel who has deveopmental disabilities and Autism. Thanks for the article.

    Kim Wilson

    • says

      Kim-I am so sorry for those words. I pray that the person who said them will be gently reminded by the Lord how hurtful they were. I know we ALL say things that sound RIGHT in our heads, but once they come out…NOPE….can’t bring it back…so I pray that person will learn from it. Perhaps they felt the twinge of regret as the words came out. It’s a great reminder for all of us to weigh our words first. THANK YOU for sharing! BLESSINGS to you!

  3. katebolduc says

    Thanks, Cindi. This is wonderful advice for those who care but just don’t know what to say. And for those who, like me, sometimes put their foot in their mouths. We all need to know we can say “I’m sorry” and be forgiven.

  4. Giuliana Fleming says

    I vividly remember saying the horrible R word out loud in a college class one day (it just so happens that it was during my special needs class) and my professor publicly rebuked me in very harsh language in front of every one. I have never been so embarassed, and I knew that using that word was bad. Now that I have a son with an intellectual disability, hearing someone use that word just rips my heart. I now know how completely devistating and hurtful that word can be when it is used flippantly. I realize that many of the hurtful things that people say to me now will one day be understood by my son, and I need to be his advocate and help people to understand that they need to be very respectful and considerate when they refer to someone with special needs.

    • says

      We all learn lessons – sometimes the hard way. OUCH. I, too understand where you’ve come from and where you’re at. We all, have so much to learn, and thankfully we have the blessings of learning a lot from our children that others might not clearly see like we do. THANK YOU FOR SHARING with such transparency. It’s not always easy, but it is SO helpful to all of us!

  5. says

    This is always a favorite topic of mine. I think I’m more of an evangelist for giving dignity and true support to the suffering than I am about the gospel… For me, the hardest thing is what to say to someone who’s child is just diagnosed or they’re in the first 6 months. I’m ready to just bear-hug them and dig in and love on them for the tough stuff they’re facing, but at that point, it freaks them out since they’re still in the denial and bargaining phases of grief. So I have to bite my tongue and pray that God would give them the encouragement they need in ways that they can receive. And I pray that as they project their fear and anger on me and say things that they wouldn’t have even said before they had their own kid diagnosed, that it’s not true, it’s not real, and they really don’t know what they’re doing. Such an emotional situation!

  6. Martienne says

    For me, the best is simply to say, “I think you’re doing a great job.” Anything beyond that usually sounds forced to me. But, when my friends and family tell me that, it makes me sigh a little.

  7. says

    I have miscarried twice and heard that same comment (God prob took the baby because it would have had “issues” or “deformities”) and it stung so badly each time I heard it. I didn’t care – I just wanted my baby. Years later we were blessed with two beautiful babies through adoption. My son has autism and my daughter has physically deformities. They are such a gift and I feel God’s little whisper from time to time telling me, “see – I didn’t take your babies because of issues or deformities – you were meant to deal with those things all along.” I don’t claim to know why we lost our first two children or why my babies on earth have special needs BUT I completely agree that a large part of it is exactly what you said. God used our losses and the beautifully hard journey of special needs parenting to teach us something we couldn’t have learned any other way. For that I am extraordinarily grateful. All four of my children are treasures – gifts from above.

    • says

      Lauren….spoken well from a well lived life. You are an inspiration. You’ve loved well, no matter the circumstances. Thank you for the example. Thanks for writing!

  8. says

    My favorite thing to say to others that may not fully understand my child is, “GOD does NOT make mistakes!” My son is not a mistake, nor is he deformed, damaged, or retarded, nor did he ruin my life. When we were going to adopt our son a good friend told me, “Don’t adopt him he will ruin your life!” I was very hurt by her words! Lucky for us we did not take her advice!

  9. Sally Fralix says

    I try to remember the intent of the comment rather than the words that are used. The things that are said are usually meant to be helpful, not to hurt.

    Of course, when it is the “r” word, that is completely different. About a year ago, a person in SS told a story with that word. After church he came up to me to apologize and just broke down in tears. He hugged me and said he was sorry. I just told him that “When you know better, you do better”
    My son then walked up and said his favorite greeting, “Good morning. God Bless You!” The guy really lost it then. Afterwards, I thought of the irony that I spent 10 minutes consoling him! He was so remorseful about what he said.

    Forgiveness and compassion given, one person changed. Don’t ever let anyone say our exceptional family members can’t be used by God!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *