You’ve just learned a friend’s sister has died. Or that they have a challenging illness. Perhaps they’re going through a devastating divorce.
These are people we know and care about, and our hearts go out to them. We feel badly and want to take away their pain. That’s human nature in the highest sense of the word “human.” It means we’re sympathetic and want to help. When someone has a problem, we want to suggest solutions.
But many well-meaning expressions may not be helpful in practice. Why? Because people don’t need their sorrow taken away – they need help holding it.
This may seem counterintuitive so I’ll say it again:
People don’t need their sorrow taken away; they need help holding it.
When I was in graduate school to become a social worker, I learned the most important and valuable benefit I can provide is a therapeutic holding environment. Beyond any particular model or type of therapy, it is the relationship and safety of the holding environment that brings about growth, healing, and self-understanding.
What if we all could provide a caring holding environment for one another? All of us regular people in regular relationships could support one another through whatever life dishes out. What might that include?
Acknowledging and Validating without Judging or Fixing
Remember that even after someone appears okay, they still have moments of difficulty. We don’t get over a loved one’s death, a serious chronic illness, or a traumatic divorce. These are all examples of unwelcome change that we learn to live with and weave into the tapestry of our lives.
I invite you to help hold the pain and sorrow for anyone you know who may be going through a challenging time. And I thank you.
Wishing you health and peace,
Read The 4 Facets of Grief
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Essays on Grief Resilience