A friend of mine was at a grief support group. As she walked into the room, she saw boxes of tissues, and as the group went on there was a young woman in tears. My friend wanted so much to do something that would help, but she didn’t know what that would be.
There's two things you can learn already from my friend's brief experience.
The first thing is something I like to call getting clear on your intentions.
How many of us want to help people?
And the thing about helping people is that it’s actually SELFISH.
Whoa, there. What? Selfish?
Doing something that makes someone smile, that gives them what they were looking for, that feeds them in a way they were hungry is a kind of satisfaction that YOU get from doing something.
So when you see a friend going through a hard time, wanting to help them is YOUR way of wanting to end the pain YOU feel by seeing someone you care about experience something hard.
That’s why it’s selfish.
So, don’t get self conscious about what you do or say to help. Just know that you are doing or saying something because you CARE and that’s why it pains you to see your friend in pain.
Let YOUR CARING lead the way.
That's when you shift your intention from being a desire to help (which is really about you) to a desire to show how much you care (which is about your caring for the other person).
With this one clarification on your intention, you can go from feeling unsure and uncomfortable to knowing that the reason you are doing something for this person is because you care.
The second thing is when you see the pain from grief, the pain you’re seeing is the footprint of love.
So, helping doesn’t mean taking away that pain.
Because that pain came from love.
What does help is being with someone in their pain.
One of the most common effects of grief is losing your friends.
I believe this is because your friends think the things they say or do should help you, and when it doesn't they stop showing up because they don't know what else to do.
But when you can be clear on your intention and know you show up to care for a friend, regardless of what reaction the person has to your words or action, then when you see them cry or express feeling the absence of the person they love, you can know you are seeing something that your friend loved. And you don't want to take that away from them. You just want to be with them as them continue to miss what they love.
So take a deep breath.
You can't take away the pain from someone else.
And that's ok.
Be with them as they express their love (because that's what they do when they express grief) and remind them day in and day out you see them, hear them, and are there for them.
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