It’s so easy to console a toddler. My son when he was barely 2 years old. He used to come running to me with all his problems. And it was so easy to comfort and console him. A small kiss used to make the pain go away. A small promise used to make all troubles vanish. He truly believed that I had solution for all the problems in life. I wish life was that simple.
In adult life we can’t wish away setbacks and problems and losses. Sometimes the loss is so huge that it feels like life has just stopped. Business going bust or death of a loved one or heartbreak the list is endless. It feels like the carpet has been pulled away from below your feet. And we will never find our footing again.
If a friend is going through such a situation how will you help?
First and foremost words of courage, comfort and love do help. But generally what happens is where the loss is too recent or when you are actually going through the problem these words feel superficial. But somewhere deep in the heart they do register. And give inner strength to people. I will give you an example. A friend of mine was struggling with a heartbreak. She had just found out that her spouse was cheating on her. And while speaking to her I said the usual phrases “don’t worry everything would be all right”, “whatever happens, happens for good”, “God is there” and she lashed back at me and said “you don’t even know what I am going through, my world has fallen apart, how can you be so sure that things will be ok? You don’t understand me”. At that time I had put up with her bad mood but I knew her anger was not directed at me. Her anger was because of the situation she was in and it was a kind of defense mechanism that was making her strong from inside. And months later she confessed that she was angry and hurting from inside and my words were comforting her even though she was not ready to admit it then.
This brings me to the second point. Give an opportunity to the affected person to vent out his feelings. Be there for him. Just sit and listen. Like if a friend with an active life style, is suffering from some illness and is confined to bed. He is bound to be grumpy and angry. Listen to his issues. Let him whine for sometime. A patient ear is what he wants. He already know all the logic and realities. A little pampering is what he expects. Let him play the victim card for sometime and then gently bring him back to reality.
Another way in which you can help is by giving the person time to grieve. Like if there is a death in the household. Help in the day to day chores of the house. Give the family time to grieve and compose themselves. These days the neighbors are closer than relatives. So things like providing food or offering to take care of small kids or helping out in getting the bank formalities done go a long way in helping the bereaved. And these gestures are remembered for a long time by them.