How to be present with a loved one in pain:
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
100% of you agreed, we are feeling a real heaviness around us. There has been so much loss of late, both globally and in my small part of the world. It was in hearing one of my closest friend’s voices as they grieved a loss, I was reminded of just how difficult it is to stay present with a loved one in pain. My first reaction was to want to drive to their house and hug them. My second was simply, “What can I do?” to which the answer was, “Nothing.” I asked around in my network about people who had experienced a similar loss and all they replied was, “Time. It just takes time to heal.”
In amidst the heaviness, how do we step away from the fixing and be present with a loved one in pain? I’m not even going to pretend I have the answer because I’m obviously sitting beside you all in it. This is more just my two cents to open the conversation.
When our loved ones share their pain with us, it’s important to check in with how we are receiving it. This might sound selfish but hear me out. Our loved ones need to lean on us and they can’t if they’re busy trying to soothe us too. I’m not playing into the old rhetoric of being stoic and bottling our emotions, it’s just good to have the awareness of how we are receiving them so we can be the best supporter we can. If we are not in a good place emotionally, it’s doesn’t seem fair to add to what our loved ones are going through. It might be best to support from a distance. Remember though, communication is key. Tell them what’s going on for you and why you’ve chosen to support in that way.
Often when we empathise with painful experiences, we experience a rush of discomfort too. That sensation of needing to do something often comes from a deep discomfort or pain within us. We are trying to abate the discomfort as much as we are trying to alleviate our loved one’s pain. The risk we run in trying to ‘fix’ things is the message it potentially sends. If something is perceived as needing ‘fixing’ the implication is, it is broken. I strongly believe there are no broken people. Whilst there are some wounds that will never diminish, we can help people to expand the container it is held in. The wound then can still be held with plenty of room for more of the good stuff over time.
So how do we help expand their containers? Showing them love. Physically holding them and emotionally staying present. Connection is the important thing. Create it anyway we can. Maybe that looks like a fun activity, watching something in silence or a text saying, ‘I’m thinking of you’. We need to make sure we really hear them when they reach out, ask questions when we’re unsure what to do and just melt into the privilege of witnessing their experiences. At the end of the day, we are all just human and we will screw things up. What’s more important than doing the right thing, is being present and apologising when we get it wrong. Pain has a way of isolating us, no one can truly understand our specific experience of pain which is lonely. This is a gentle reminder to everyone; we are not alone no matter how much it feels that way sometimes.
Please let me know your thoughts on how to connect in less than easy times and how to ensure no individual in our community feels alone? If you're interested in joining one of our free events this month please send me an email email@example.com or check out our online community click here.