Andrew Sullivan has a MUST READ post about supporting people who are suffering. He pulls from the original post and a couple of responses. Please click through and read the whole post.
This was especially striking:
It feels like resignation or irresponsibility not to say anything to the person in the midst of trauma. At best, we want to help. But so often “help” is just another word for “control” and a defense mechanism for feeling uncomfortable with another’s grief.
The whole thing reminds me of Bill White’s references to fellow travelers.
Catherine Woodiwiss offers guidance for those who want to help a friend or loved one going through trauma or suffering. Among her suggestions? “Do not offer platitudes or comparisons. Do not, do not, do not”:
“I’m so sorry you lost your son, we lost our dog last year … ” “At least it’s not as bad as … ” “You’ll be stronger when this is over.” “God works in all things for good!”
When a loved one is suffering, we want to comfort them. We offer assurances like the ones above when we don’t know what else to say. But from the inside, these often sting as clueless, careless, or just plain false. Trauma is terrible. What we need in the aftermath is a friend who can swallow her own discomfort and fear, sit beside us, and just let it be terrible for a while.
David Brooks distills (NYT
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