How do You Help People During a Time of Personal Tragedy?
I sipped my coffee automatically. My friend sat across from me at the table, her own cup growing cold. I fidgeted with my napkin, folding and unfolding it.
All the while, my friend continued to tell me her story. My mind and heart rolled over and over, lost in her hurt.
How do you handle other people’s pain? I am a fixer and a "do-er". I am on a long difficult journey learning how to handle these situations. My reaction is usually trying to find a solution and give other people the "right" answers so they can move forward. However, I am learning that most the time this is a misguided thing to do.
I love that story in the Bible when the pregnant maidservant, Hagar, runs away and cries in the desert (Genesis 16). This woman was mistreated and full of fear. She had no hope and was consumed by emotional pain. God hears Hagar and sends His angel to care for her. But, though the angel surely knew her whole story, he began by asking, “Where have you come from and where are you going?”
The angel’s first step in ministering to Hagar was to come close to her in her loneliness and give someone who would listen to her story. It was only after she spoke that He gave her the message from God. He didn’t weigh her down with opinions of his own.
I tend to over-talk someone in pain, trying to fix their world with my poor assembly of knowledge. However, the reality of it is that until someone has their heart ministered to, they are often unable to use their head to make decision and plans.
If you want to help someone in pain, even if you don’t agree with all they say, you can let them know that you hear them, that they are heard. That they are loved. That they are not alone.
So, as my friend let out her story, I concentrated on simply listening to her. I didn’t try to fix it or judge the situation, I let her talk. Later there was time to discuss a solution and a course of action, but, while she was still in so much pain, all I could do was listen.
How did you react the last time someone came to you in emotional pain?