We all have felt the intense pain of loss, and know how terribly isolating it can be. But in some ways it’s even more difficult to be with someone who is in pain than it is to experience it ourselves. We want to fix things, to make it all right again for them, and when we cannot, we feel frustrated and angry. How can we deal?
- Remember God is there. God doesn’t rush in to fix things or to sugarcoat anything; God is there for us for the long haul, though everything. If we remember that, it helps us to just be with someone else who is suffering.
- Validate the other person’s pain. The worst thing you can do is say “Cheer up, it’s not really that bad.” Even if it doesn’t feel “that bad” to you, it does to them. Respect that and don’t minimize others’ feelings.
- Be Christ to the person in pain. Don’t try to come up with answers; just offer Christ’s presence. The most difficult thing is to do nothing and just be; but you’re not doing it by yourself.
No one understands why we suffer, and there are no “right” prefabricated answers to pain. All that there is, is presence. You can be that presence; you can make sure that the person in pain is not alone. The ability to freely enter into the suffering of another is a reflection of God’s love, and it’s what we’re all called to do.