Megan Devine is a grief expert , author and psychotherapist .
This is a brilliant ( edited ) piece she has written about helping someone in severe anguish , fear or pain
”So what do we do about the pain we see in people and how come it often seems that our best efforts to help someone . backfire?
I’ve been studying about grief and loss and I’ve learned something interesting. Cheering them up , telling them to be strong and persevere, helping them move on – it doesn’t actually work .It seems counter intuition but the way to but the way to help someone feel better ,is to let them be in pain. You can’t heal somebody’s pain by trying to take it away from them .
Acknowledgement does something different. It makes things better even if they can’t be made right . If someone is in pain , it is more helpful to join them in their pain than to try to cheer them up .We’re not really sure with what to do with someone’s pain and so we do what we’ve been taught , we look on the bright-side. We try to make people feel better .We give them advice. It’s not like this is nefarious , we try to cheer people up as we think it’s our job .We’re not supposed to let people stay sad .The problem is you can’t heal somebody’s pain by trying to take it away from them .Now acknowledgement does something different , when a giant hole opens up in someone’s life, it’s actually much more supportive to acknowledge that hole and let pain exist .It’s actually a radical act to let things hurt.It goes against what we’ve been taught .In order to support you ,I have to acknowledge things are as really as bad as they feel to you . If i try to cheer you up, you end up defending yourself and your feelings .If i give you advice you feel misunderstood instead of supported .Rarely does the admonishment to look on the bright side actually heal things for someone .It just makes them stop telling you about their pain .To be able to say ‘this hurts’,without being talked out of it ,that’s what helps .Being heard , helps.
It seems too simple to be of use ,but acknowledgement can be the best medicine we have .It can make things better , even if they can’t be made right ”