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Don’t give advice, just be there

To be near someone, even without saying or doing anything, is the most powerful way to help

Image: Jordan McQueen

“The beauty of life is also in its light and darkness.”
William Faulkner

When a person is devastated by the pain, the last thing she needs is advice. Her world was shattered and the act of asking someone, anyone, to enter it is a big risk. Trying to fix, streamline or eliminate their pain only deepens terror. Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is to recognize that suffering. Say, literally, the words: “I acknowledge your pain. I am here with you”. (…) Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you will do something. And you are not expected to do anything but stand on the side of the one you love, suffer with him, to hear him.

There is no greater action than recognition. And recognition requires no training, no special skills, and no expertise. It will only be present with a wounded soul and remain present for as long as necessary.

Be there. Just be there. Don`t go away when you feel uncomfortable or feel you are not doing anything. Indeed, it is when you feel uncomfortable and think you’re not doing anything you should stay.

Because it is in these places, of shadows, where we rarely allow ourselves in, that the principles of healing are founded. Healing is founded when we find others who wish to enter that space with us. All bereaved people in the world need people like that.

These words are powerful because they directly aim at the pathetic platitudes that our culture has built around the loss: the loss of a child cannot be resolved, being diagnosed with a debilitating disease that has no solution, facing the betrayal of a close person has no cure. All these things can only be supported. Who helps us, the ones who help us are those who are on our side. And don`t say anything. And by saying nothing, do everything.

This text was extracted from Tim Lawrence’s blog, classical musician who suffers from cerebral palsy, and who experienced many losses and difficulties and is dedicated to the theme of adversity and resilience in his The Adversity Within blog. Lawrence uses his personal experience to help people survive the grief and suffering. He believes, like us, that no one should face adversity alone.