A guide to comforting others

Humans tend to have a default response to failures and tragedies.

“It’s alright”, “It’s going to be okay”. 

I have never found them to be particularly comforting in any way. Maybe I’m just too critical but let’s face it, sometimes it just isn’t okay. Jon Westenburg speaks beautifully on it.

People don’t want to hear that everything is alright, when they know — deeply and painfully — that it isn’t. They don’t want to be lied to, even if it’s in the nicest way possible.

All they want is for us to be near. Be open. Be awake and willing to listen. Be patient. Be understanding. And most of all, to just be there. Because the greatest gift you can ever give to someone who is mourning a tragedy, a business disaster, anything — is to ensure that they aren’t alone.

That’s why people in a time of crisis often scream out for help or for companionship. It’s not because they want the rest of the world to solve their problems; they understand that nobody has a magic wand. It’s because they want the simple comfort of knowing that they do not walk in isolation, when they’re in need.

We don’t want our pain to be minimized.

Because that’s what happens, when we’re told it’s alright. We feel like we’re over reacting, because if everything really is alright — we ask, why are we feeling so much pain, and what is the root and the cause of it, and are we even entitled to our pain?

We want the enormity of our disasters to be recognised by the people around us, so that we know that what we feel isn’t a trick of our hearts and our minds — it’s a reality. And it sucks, and it’s acceptable to feel like it sucks.

Sometimes life just sucks, things are not okay, but you are strong enough to get through it.