I saw a video a couple of weeks ago from one my very favorite authors, Brene Brown. She was talking about sympathy and empathy and something she said really stuck with me:
“When someone shares something really painful, maybe the best response is, ‘I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just so glad you told me.’ Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”
I’ve been in many painful situations and some of my worst memories aren’t of the situation, itself, but of the thoughtless things well-meaning people say when they think they’re being helpful.
- Don’t worry, there’s light at the end of the tunnel
- You won’t be given more than you can handle
- You’re strong, you can get through this
- You think this is bad, I know someone who has it way worse than you
People can say some incredibly idiotic things when they’re trying to help but I tend to cut them some slack because I know they don’t know any better.
For many of us, the more difficult situation is the one in which we are with someone who is suffering and we don’t know what to say. We struggle for just the right words that will make that person feel better. We can’t bear the uncomfortable silence so we say something, anything, hoping it’ll be better than nothing.
The truth is, just simply being with another person can make all the difference.
When a person is suffering, he or she feels alone. It’s not the kind of alone like ‘no one understands what I’m going through or how I’m feeling.’ The truth is, no two painful events are the same and no one can truly know how you feel, whether they’ve been through it or not. It’s the kind of alone like ‘no one wants to walk with me while I go through this.’
Simply having someone next to you, to hold your hand, sit with you, just be there… that’s one of the most meaningful gifts you can give a person.
Don’t worry about what to say. Silence and Presence may be all you need. Just show up.