Giving comfort is not an easy task. Even though we probably all know of or experienced moments; when we are sad and need people to lift us up. That could be because of a loss, some type of pain, regret, guilt, a mental breakdown, or even a horrible phase or chapter in life.
And yet, it can be incredibly difficult to comfort ourselves or even others, and find the supposedly “right words” for the right time. Why is that? Why do we often feel so helpless, when confronted with the misfortunes of others? We’ll tell you the reasons for this and how you can comfort those close to you when they’re going through a difficult time.
What does it mean to comfort and console?
We, humans, are social beings. As such, we want our loved ones to be well and happy, especially those who are the most important to us. If they are not, for example; then our well-being usually also becomes unbalanced, as we get affected and want to help. To comfort others means that we lift up our counterparts in their sorrow, calm them down or cheer them up.
It does not mean; unfortunately that we can relieve or end their suffering and stress. But we may be able to make it a little easier for them, by comforting them and getting through the difficult time together.
Why comforting others can be difficult?
For seemingly small things like a knee injury or physical wounds, most of us will be able to comfort the person suffering quite well. To do this, we mainly draw from our own experience and what we have learned from others, in terms of consolation. After all, we usually know what a physical wound will feel like. It is painful and what to do in such a moment is to blow on it, clean it and cover it.
However, when it comes to other bigger stresses; such as losing a job or career or even negative life-changing events such as the loss of a loved one, things often look very different and more difficult.
One reason, especially in the case of a severe twist of fate, may be that we have no experience of our own that we can use to empathize or relate to the situation. So we can only try our best to bring relief and comforting solace.
Or maybe we can relate indeed and we have experienced similar things; that we can think of and guess how we would’ve wanted others to support us during that time. This way you can use the same method you would’ve wanted others to use with you, to bring comfort to others.
On the other hand, we can be reminded by the suffering of others that we ourselves can also get into such a difficult situation. Or maybe, we are confronted with our own fears, and perhaps we would prefer to try to avoid similar situations. All this can make it difficult and challenging to really turn to the other person and offer comfort.
Few tips to console someone after a loss they suffered:
If you want to give someone comfort or be supportive in a difficult situation, then you should consider the following:
1. Be there:
Often, just being there is enough. No big words are needed. For the person who is grieving or seeking comfort, it is already very valuable to know that you are there for them and that they are not alone.
The most important thing in comforting at all; is listening. You don’t have to offer solutions or give advice. Don’t be worried about being clumsy and saying the wrong thing or worsening anything. Just as long as you can listen and be there.
Sometimes just getting something off our chest helps. Just give a sympathetic ear and show understanding and compassion.
A hug can be very comforting. But this is true only if you are really familiar with the person who is suffering. Otherwise, a hug can also be problematic, not everyone is affectionate, tactile, or open to let you in their personal space.
4. Do not belittle anything:
“Life goes on” or “It’s not that bad” can be phrases that are anything but comforting. The person suffering feels misunderstood. Other completely alternative and better phrases: “I can understand how you feel” or “It will be okay”.
5. Validate their feelings:
Admit the validation of the feelings of the grieving person. Anger, sadness, no matter how they feel … Let them feel it and make them feel right for feeling that way. Let them cry too if needed. This is part of the process.
Tears can act like a cooling balm for burn wounds. In other words, the importance of crying cannot be overstated especially considering how much it will help with getting over hard phases.
Don’t try to suppress these feelings through distractions. Simply allow the person’s grief.
6 Write a letter:
Some people find it easier to communicate their sympathy in writing, for example in a letter. For instance, many turn to love letters to confess their love or attraction to someone rather than it in person and run the risk of getting rejected face-to-face.
Because expressing complex emotions or comfort verbally can also fail. It is easy to say something that may be misunderstood and hurt the grieving person. Especially, because you are particularly sensitive when suffering.
If you find it difficult to offer comfort with spoken words, it is best to choose the written way. In doing so, you can consider each word carefully.
7. Giving a helping hand:
Suffering or grieving people are often in a state of shock. They have no head for everyday things and little insignificant tasks that need to be done.
This is where you can lend a helping hand. Simply offering practical help, like doing their groceries shopping, taking care of a few errands or accompanying them, or even taking over cooking and cleaning activities.
The bottom line:
The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult life situations that can befall us. Of course, we want to be there to comfort and support at that moment, but it’s not always easy. It is difficult to find the right words.
Nevertheless, we should not turn away and invent excuses but offer help. Many people shy away from approaching the suffering or wounded person. They don’t know what to say, what to do, or even how to act without disrespecting that person’s grief. Sometimes just listening is worth a lot and provides enough comfort.
The point is to be there for them but to be patient. Doing nothing or being absent when they need you the most, out of insecurity can be the worst option.