In his book "Don't Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart," Dr. Kenneth Haugk includes a chapter on the first and best thing to do to help someone who is hurting. His advice is to cry, feel awful.
A good cry
- A good cry is cleansing. It helps to work trough and clean out the pain at the best and most beneficial time.
- Someone once said to a person who had just lost his spouse, "Don't cry -- You'll just make yourself sick." Wrong! Crying is healing. It gets the painful feelings out in the open.
- There can be a high price for not crying. Keeping a lid on powerful, pent up feelings can set one up for a crash later on.
- Caregivers can play an important part in another's life by accepting their right to cry -- or even better accept crying as part of healing. People cry in front of those they trust.
Sharing the hurt
Scripture blesses the notion of sharing the hurt with those who are suffering. Consider Hebrews 13:3 "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoner, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." This invites us to join our feelings with the feelings of others as if we were experiencing them.
Also consider Romans 12:15, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." This invites us to throw away our emotional reservations and to cry with those who are weeping and to rejoice with those who rejoice.
Some practical ways to demonstrate that you are sharing the hurt of another is to:
- put your hand on their shoulder, give them a hug or cry with them.
- say, simply, "I feel terrible too."
- avoid giving pep talks. That doesn't work. Sharing the pain on a deep level does.
Having it out with God
Dr. Haugk asks whether God wants to have a relationship with the real you or whether he wants to have a relationship with some phony, prettied-up, pious you? What do you think? The question is worded that way so that you know he wants the real you. Of course! The next question is just how angry are we allowed to get at God? How much screaming, yelling, crying and venting does God allow?
The answer is just as much as your feelings demand. The truth about God is that He can take it. He has been dealing with people's anger for a long time.
The closest thing to a magic bullet
If you are looking for a magic bullet in your caring tool kit it is listening. Some research participants told how listening made a difference for them in their pain:
- "My brother died from a drug overdose. A few let me tell the story over and over. They let me be sad without trying to change me."
- "When I was divorced, a close friend was an excellent listener. He was there for me whenever I needed him and did not offer any simple answers or pat advice."
- "When one of my parents died, the ones who helped me were the ones who said little."
The very best gift you can offer a suffering person is a heart full of understanding, eyes filled with tears and ears ready to listen.