In Times of (dis)Stress
In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.
In our last post on Wednesday, we talked about moving beyond ourselves and our own struggles and how healing it is when we are able to help others. We referenced an NPR news story in which researchers talked about the significant role that helping others brings to our own growth through difficulties. NPR also covered a related story on December 19, entitled When Someone You Know Loses A Child , following the Newtown, CT school shooting tragedy. We wanted to take a few moments to write about the parallel between those two articles, particularly on the issue of how to bring healing amidst such deep despair and pain.
People have often asked us,
What do you do … what you say … and how do you react … when someone comes to you with an immense loss and who is in deep pain?
Our response is exactly the response of Eugene Peterson, pastor and author, in the article,
Silence is sometimes the best thing to do, holding a hand, hugging somebody. There are no adages that explain or would make any difference to the suffering. Sometimes people say, ‘I don’t know what to say to these people.’ You know, I say don’t say anything. Just hold their hand. Hold them, hug them and just stay around for an hour or so in silence and just be there. That’s what we need at times like this …
It’s not about filling the space and the silence with platitudes or shallow words of comfort, for they never help. And in fact, they often cause hurt and deeper distress and, sometimes, resentment and isolation. At times like these few people need easy answers, they just need to be held, embraced, and reassured that someone will stand with them. It is simply to allow them to cry when they need to, to vent when they need to, to tell their story over and over again until they don’t need to any more. It is to allow them to raise questions—questions that most often don’t have simple answers. It is to convey the message that they are free to react however they need to. It is for us, to simply start with saying,
And then listen to what they need, from there.