When Someone is in Pain. Be a Witness
How to be with people who are in pain.
This is such a hard thing for so many people, and yet no one teaches it, and no one talks about it. Being able to sit with someone while they are in pain is a basic human interaction, so why do we stumble? Why do we avoid these types of situations.
We avoid funerals, visiting people who are in the hospital or who are suffering from pain that perhaps isn’t physical. We ignore calls of people who have experienced loss or gone through break ups. Or we avoid picking up the phone and calling those who are mourning or in loss. We falter.
We don’t have to look very far to find someone who is in pain, yet when we do, we do our very best not to engage. Is it because we’re indifferent to the suffering of others, that we don’t care, or simply can’t make the time?
No, I don’t believe it is. Connection is our basic human need, we’re hard wired for it.
I think we falter, because we don’t know how to act in these types of situations. They make us deeply uncomfortable. When someone is in pain and they are willing to show that vulnerability, it forces us to look at our own. And that in itself is deeply uncomfortable. We put large amounts of energy into turning away from our vulnerability, many of us for the fear that we’ll appear weak.
It’s hard to sit with someone who is in pain because it forces us to empathetic, and our instinct is to avoid pain. If we try so desperately to avoid our own pain, why would we want to feel someone else’s?
So we go into fix it mode, we try and solve their problem. We try and divert the pain with a solution, or we provide the ever inappropriate pep talk. When we’re in pain, the last thing we want is someone to try and belittle our pain or suffering with a pep talk, psychoanalysis, spiritual dissection, or problem solving.
At its root, our pain is our receipt. It’s your proof of purchase. Proof that you put yourself out there, that you had courage, that you played big, that you opened your heart. The price may have been big, but completely worth it. So why would you want someone to take that ticket away from you. It becomes a badge of honor.
When we’re in pain we’re not looking for someone to swoop in and make things better. We’re looking to be witnessed, not validated, just witnessed. Someone to sit with us and shoulder the burden for a moment while we catch out breath.We’re looking to be witnessed, not validated, just witnessed. Click To Tweet
If you struggle to find the right words to say when you’re with someone who’s in pain, don’t say any. Let your presence and support, speak for you. Your intentions will always speak louder than your words.
Instead of providing a pep talk or words of encouragement, just be a witness to their pain. It’s as simple saying “I’m sorry this happened”, “I know you’re hurting”, “this sucks.” There will be a time for words of encouragement later, when they’re ready to dust themselves off.
But for now, just be a witness.When someone you love is in pain, be a witness. Click To Tweet
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Sending you all love,