A Little Happier: During a Difficult Family Discussion, Someone Knows the Right Thing to Say.

I’m always looking for examples of people knowing the right thing to say. This is such a challenge in life. We’re faced with someone’s grief, disappointment, anger, frustration, or guilt, and we want to offer comforting words, but we don’t know what to say. So I love hearing someone get it right.

And I saw a wonderful example of the right thing to say on a TV show, the Amazon TV show Transparent. It’s about the Pfefferman family in Los Angeles—two parents and their three grown children—who go through various challenges.

The moment I want to talk about was on the show way back in Season 2.

Spoiler alert: I’m going to talk about something that happened, so if you don’t want to know, skip this particular episode of A Little Happier. And it’s also a sad story, if you want to skip that.

A bit of backstory for the moment I want to discuss: in Season 2, episode 1, the character Sarah is getting married, her second marriage. On the day of the wedding, Josh told their sister Ali a secret, that his girlfriend Raquel is pregnant. Because no one in this family can keep a secret, soon the whole family knows. And their mother Shelley is so thrilled by this news that she can’t resist announcing it to a big crowd of people at Sarah’s wedding.

Later in Season 2, in episode 7, the Pfefferman family, who is Jewish, is celebrating Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the holiest day in the Jewish year, and as part of it, people fast.

In the story, the youngest child of the three, Ali is hosting a “break fast” celebration in her apartment. She’s invited her family and various family friends to share a meal.

Everyone is seated, eating and talking, and people say to Josh, “Where’s Raquel?” and finally he steels himself and reveals what has happened: Raquel lost the baby, and Josh and Raquel broke up.

Shelley immediately bursts into loud sobs.

“It’s all my fault!” she says in despair. “At the wedding I was drunk, and I told everybody and while we were dancing I yelled it out loud, and I told everybody to celebrate and I brought on the evil eye, and I killed the baby.”

So here’s the question: What do you say to this woman, in her grief and her guilt? What could comfort her?

Shelley’s new boyfriend Buzz knows just what to say and what to do. He reaches out and puts his hand on her back, and says in a gentle, almost humorous tone, “Shelley, you’re not that powerful.”

When I heard those words, I felt a tremendous rush of relief.

It’s comforting because it’s true: you’re not that powerful.




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