Bad News: Delicate and Harsh

January 22, 2021

Anyone who’s been given bad news knows the distinct way it sounds. The delicate and harsh way it comes out and shatters you completely. The precise tone of the person giving it, the look, the feel, it’s all so heartbreakingly recognizable. 

Once cancer entered my mother’s body and life she had a different and unique sound and delivery of bad news. I knew before she whispered a word that something bad was coming. I knew each time she was about to say something life altering in the most destructive of ways. 

Her delightful and radiant self became stoically strong and faithful. Not to pretend, but to protect, it’s what mothers do. Instantly I had a new knowing of what bad news sounded like, what it looked like, and even worse, what it felt like. 

Bad news has a look, even more than it has a sound. It’s a simultaneous look of ache, love, courage, sadness, faith, brokenness, dread, and wishful hope. Like some sort of burrito mixed with all of the wrong and contradictory ingredients. It makes no sense, yet you instantly recognize it’s identity and intent. 

It’s the most paralyzing and deliberate combination of “Wait, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” mixed with “Just hurry up and say it!” It’s not wanting and wanting at the same time. It’s hurry and wait. Ultimately, it ends with an agonizing “No! No! No!” 

It’s the debilitating sound of bad news. It’s the lingering knowing of the way bad news looks as it slips out of the mouth of someone you love fiercely. It’s the way your body recognizes the silent ache of the heart that’s beating with news that will soon break you too. 

Bad news isn’t just heard, it’s felt. It’s recognized easily by hearts that have already been wounded by its sting. I wish I didn’t know the delicate and catastrophic ringings of bad news, but I do, and I always will. It’s not something a heart, mind, or soul forgets. It becomes as recognizable as your own breath and your own heartbeat. 

Until the day the final bad news comes. Only this time the news is delivered from someone else. A stranger or a doctor or some other person, someone else delivering the harshest and most final news they’ll be. The one that feels like a tattoo on your heart and permanent gunfire on your soul. It’s the moment you realize they’ll be no additional news at all. And suddenly you realize bad news is devastating but at least in the beginning it was spoken by the one you loved.

Bad news, harsh and delicate, and eventually leads to no news at all. 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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