There is a tendency to fill the air with words, when expressing sympathy, in person or in writing. Hallmark chooses comforting messages for you. Sometimes empathy presents the best sincerity.
Rethinking Sympathy – #377
“I know how you feel.” People often say that, to show empathy with someone else. The truth is, you probably have no idea how they feel. And saying that you do may really aggravate the other person or make them want to scream back that you could not possibly feel their pain.
So how do you comfort someone over a loss or a tragedy? You might say – I know how I would feel in that situation. You might even find better words to use.
Often, it’s best to just be quiet. Be a sounding board, rather than someone who gives advice. Let the other person vent or cry on your shoulder. A gentle touch…a hug …the holding of a hand – all those can express empathy better than a speech.
Sometimes you’ll share the tears; sometimes you’ll dry them. Just being there with someone you care for can be the greatest gift in their time of need. Being there…and quiet…and listening…and sharing.
You won’t find that prescription on a bottle of medication. You’ll find it in your soul.
Don’t be afraid of the person in pain. Don’t try to convince them things will be better. Just be there for them, with love in your heart.
Some people have a generous knack for expressing sympathy by doing. We think to take food over right away, but take it again later too. Call with a lunch invitation in a few weeks. If you are turned down, ask again later. Send a “thinking of you” card the next month. Mark your calendar to remember to stay in touch. Don’t let your hurting friend fall between the cracks of your busy life. Good friends are rare – and well worth the extra effort.