Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Comforting Others in Times of Pain

Usually when someone we know is going through pain or experiencing crisis, we try to point out the positive and encourage them that things will somehow get better.

But I have realized that this natural approach is very deeply flawed.

Often, trying to make a painful situation better or more simple than it seems to be just causes an incredible amount of harm. Saying things like "it's all going to be ok" or "look on the bright side..." or "it could be worse" to someone who has experienced loss, is facing huge trials in life, is struggling with emotional issues, etc, is actually very detrimental and even unkind. We mean well when we say things like this, but all it usually does is delegitimize the problem, dismiss the emotions of who we are attempting to comfort, and ultimately eliminate the possibility of effectively helping that person through whatever it is they are dealing with.

Sometimes it's best to know that nothing can be said to make things better and just validate and support that person, let them experience deep emotions, as upsetting as they may be and just show them through your presence and willingness to listen that even if it doesn't get better right away or even at all that you care and are in it with them for the long haul. Sometimes all you can do is just listen but actually that often is all you need to in order to give what they need from you at that moment.

In life, it's not always going to get better, things may never be easier, and deep wounds usually really can't be mended by time. But we can always become stronger people, better friends, and develop a deeper capacity to love. And in the end love and compassion, NOT making things better or easier, is what really ends up accomplishing that.

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