It’s hard to figure out what to say when someone is in pain. I want to help but often am unsure of what to say or do. I recently read an article in Oprah magazine that was helpful. In her article, Martha Beck suggests we “be like water”. Water is fluid but tends to settle in stillness and reflect. Fluidity, stillness, and reflectiveness she says are the characteristics we should try to embody when consoling a friend.
Being fluid means allowing someone to exist without judging or trying to change their state. This acceptance of their place in the process of grief allows them to begin healing. Ms. Beck says to be genuinely nonjudgmental we need to be still. This may be the hardest for us as we try to help another.
I feel guilty when I am happy and a friend is sad, or healthy, when they are sick. Being overly sympathetic can lead you to feeling as bad as the person you’re trying to help. The best thing you can do for a troubled person is become untroubled yourself, Martha Beck writes. When given a positive environment the griever has space to be reflective and heal.
Being a mirror for a friend is one of the most supportive things you can do. When someone is having a bad day at work you may say: You sound really swamped. This may seem simple and too easy but when the person is quiet enough to hear their true self, it will always tell them you what to do. The fluidity, stillness, and reflectiveness give the troubled person space to listen to their voice.
I have a good friend who calls me often. Many times the conversations starts with: “This situation is driving me crazy…”. A few minutes into her description of the problem she says, “Are you there?”
“Yes,” I say and she continues. At the end of her story, she usually says, “Wow, that really helped.” But I haven’t spoken a word. Wow, that was easy, I think.
I’m not saying this is always going to work or feel great. Example: My teenage daughter storms into the house from the garage after a bike ride with her dad.
Me: “How was your ride?”
Her: “What do you think? My bike broke again.”
I think a few seconds and then come out with: “That sucks.”
She yells at me. “You’re not making it better Mom!” Then she stomps to her room.
Yeah, I have nothing for teens! If you’re reading this, don’t tell my daughter I wrote about her!
All the best,