A dear loved one has just received terrible news, experienced a sudden loss, a diagnosis, a betrayal – some personal or financial tragedy – and they turn to you for help. How do you comfort a person in those first critical moments of a crisis?
In the previous two episodes we talked about leaning on your Experience and practicing Empathy to support and comfort your loved one in crisis. Today, we’ll talk about the Equipment you have at your disposal: What resources do you have available to share with your loved one in crisis?
Your first piece of Equipment is your ears. What matters most in that first instance of a crisis is this: “I see you, I hear you, I understand you, you matter to me, and I’m here with you.” We talked about this when we discussed Empathy last week.
Actively listening to your loved one – giving them your full and undivided attention communicates warmth, belonging, value, a desire to understand – it lets them know you are present with them and for them – that you hear them – that what they are feeling matters and has value.
Next is appropriate physical touch. Now this will vary by person. Some people will really appreciate your physical affirmation – a hug, or holding them in your arms, or putting an arm around them can be very comforting.
For some people, or in some instances, such intimate forms of physical comfort may not be appropriate or wanted. In these cases, simply sitting down across from or adjacent to the person lets them know in a physical way that you are near and available to them. Your physical presence can be a powerful form of comfort, even if an actual touch may not be appropriate or wanted.
So first, we have our ears to actively and attentively listen. Second, we have hugs and physical touch, or, simply your physical presence nearby if touch is not appropriate or wanted.
Third, I want to encourage you to pray out loud for your loved one. You don’t have to be a religious person to pray – everyone can pray! Prayer is just thinking your thoughts to God, expressing your feelings to God, and asking for His help. Simply ask God what He thinks and how He feels about this crisis – and then, ask Him to help.
If you’re willing to do so, praying with and for a person in crisis can be extraordinarily calming and comforting. To invite the Almighty God of the universe into that moment of hardship, and to plead for His help and encouragement is an awesome thing to do for someone in despair!
So how do you help a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member or loved one who is experiencing the fresh throes of a tragedy or crisis? You have three main tools to draw from: Experience, Empathy, and Equipment.
Experience – What helpful or harmful things did you receive from others when you experienced a crisis, and how can those experiences inform your support of this person?
Empathy – What is this person feeling right now, and how can you comfort them in this difficult moment?
And Equipment – your ears for attentive listening; your physical touch or just your physical nearness (whichever is most appropriate for the situation) to communicate your presence and love; and your prayers, interceding with and for this person out loud, giving voice to their pain in prayer to God and asking for His help.
If you will allow it, the Almighty God of the universe would love to be your strength and your shield and your wisdom and to supply you with the ability and the words you need to comfort and support your dear friend in their deepest moment of crisis and pain.