How often has someone told you, or have you told someone, not to be angry or sad? It’s a typical response when we know a loved one is in distress to jump in and try to make it better. But whatever we say seems to make things worse. The truth is that we just don’t want them to hurt. We’re not telling them they can’t feel their emotions. Rather, we are sad that they are sad.

So what might we say? Most often, it may be best to say—nothing. If we haven’t experienced what they have, we really can’t tell them we understand. We might not even agree with their reaction to a situation and do indeed feel they have no reason to be upset. Or maybe what happened was so horrific it makes us uncomfortable.

We live in a time when we want to fix everything. We think we are expected to solve all problems and help others receive “closure.” We rarely just listen and let them vent. Allowing our friend the opportunity to express their pain can be healing. What’s needed most of all is to be present, listen quietly, and acknowledge their feelings.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Advertisements