Dr. Strait reminds us that while it’s normal to want to “fix” the pain of people we care about, it’s much more important to simply be there, without fixing it. Then offers up this advice:
“How do we make our presence known, particularly from afar? If circumstances warrant at least a few words, make the first move: Ask how it’s going, shoot a simple text, or set up a video chat. It doesn’t have to be in the same room, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t even have to mention the elephant in the room, the tragedy. Just say, “Hi. I’m here” in whatever way you can.
Be honest about your intention (“I want to help”) and confusion (“I don’t know what to say”). In my experience, people appreciate transparency much more than false confidence.”
Oh how often are our tragedies, whether it be losing someone close to us, our story of abuse, mental health or even physical health issues, are met with pat statements about things happening for a reason, God’s plan, karma, the universe, etc.? That’s not allowing someone the space to grieve, or being present with them. That is dismissing their pain, their own history, to make ourselves feel like we did something to fix it, and avoid sitting with them in that pain.
Because that’s hard. That’s work. Sitting silently and letting someone feel pain, grieve, and allowing that to take up some space in our own lives, is one of the most difficult things you can do.
It’s also the one thing that really matters.
On the other hand, saying everything happens for a reason let’s us wrap it up, convinced that everyone will be OK, and get back to our own lives. I can almost picture it like a work meeting wrap up.
“OK, we all know everything happens for a reason, and it’s mysterious what that reason is, but once we accept that, we’ll all feel better about all of this. Got it? Everyone on the same page? We all know what we have to say every time this comes up again? Great! Now let’s get back to work as usual.”
And then we go back to work, utterly confused, disappointed, and even a little angry at the people who are still in pain, because they are bringing us all down!