“Just sit with me-” Dr. Daniel Gottlieb’s words from my interview with him in my previous post. This really resonated with me. These are four simple words; and yet they are so hard to carry out.
I can vouch for that. When my daughter was in the intensive care unit on a respirator and I was sitting there day in and day out, I wanted people to just sit with me. There was no need for talk. There was nothing anyone could say that would “fix” her. Words were empty and meaningless then.
But people are uncomfortable with really awful and painful situations and naturally want to say things to make it better. But often there can be no ’better’ at the time. It’s simply the bad that it is. Nothing can be more comforting than just sitting with the person who is hurting and in pain.
Being there for another:
Be there. If you’re not sure if your presence is wanted at the time, ask. Open yourself up to them. “I’m here for you. Please let me know what you want or need. I am so very sorry. I don’t know what to say.” And you know what – in many difficult situations, there are no words to say. And even if there are, at the time of intense emotional pain, words don’t really penetrate. It’s the human contact of being there that matters.
Take your cues from them. If they talk, be a good listener. If they are silent, be silent along with them.
Recognize and feel your own discomfort and helplessness. Acknowledge it and then call upon your courage to stay with their pain without trying to take it away. Even saying, “I wish I could take it away and make it all better” is acknowledging.
When I cry, my husband gets very uncomfortable ; and it sometimes manifests as bordering on annoyance. And when I call him on it later, he says, “I didn’t know what to do to make it better.” Translation – he felt helpless. No matter how many times I tell him, “you don’t have to make it better; just hear me and understand,” it’s always the same. I guess that’s part of the Men are from Mars syndrome. Men like to fix and women like to be understood. But I believe in times of deep pain and sorrow, all humans, and for that matter, other living creatures, need to be held, both literally and figuratively. There’s plenty of time for words of advice and fortitude later on.
It’s about them. It’s not about you so don’t take things personally, especially at a time of hardship. Try to step into their world by simply being with them on their terms.
Silence can truly be golden Practice being comfortable with it. It can be a tremendous source of comfort.