A Healing Presence

Author: Ed Hall

 “Do to others what you would have them do unto you.” Matthew 7:12  

Indeed, life is hard particularly when coping with loss. A challenge to each of us when striving to be consoling and comforting is to realize that we need to be aware of the adverse impact words can have on others even though meant in a loving way.

A woman who had suddenly lost her 90-year-old father, a vibrant and loving man, was suffering and hurting in her grief. A well-meaning friend said, “You can take solace in that he lived a long life.” Such a confusing comment, although said with the best intentions, did not address her aching feeling of loss.

Saying “I know how you feel” is insensitive to the individual nature of the grieving process. The comment “She is in a better place now” or “Well, at least she is not in pain anymore” said to a caregiver grieving the loss of his wife can be discomforting, minimizing and conflicting. How much better, conveying love and support, it would have been to give a hug instead of saying something.

Those who are grieving not only experience sadness but fear and anger as well. Providing advice or describing one’s own experience does not soothe. Just offering loving kindness means you relate in a way that’s gentle, non-judging and respectful – being empathetic. Such is a genuine effort to know without judgment and as accurately as possible what the other person is experiencing.

Being there, listening and supporting, is most important to one who is grieving. A guide to action in such a difficult situation is another interpretation of The Golden Rule- “do not do (say) unto others that which you would not want them to do (say) to you.”

“You show your humanity by how you see yourself not as apart from others but from your connection to others.”  Bishop Desmond Tutu

“What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?”  Mary Ann Evans

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