What can one do to strengthen and encourage someone who is suffering “In the Meantime?” The key is in the word do. Do something. Take action. This does not include wringing your hands and saying, “I wish I knew what to do.” It does not include leaving a bewildered, wounded person with, “Call me if you need anything.”
In your way, let them know you care. Tell them you care—simply and directly. Go for a walk with them. See if they would like to take a writing, photography, or exercise class with you. Write a note or ten. Give them a hug. Buy them a CD. Find a special book—a gift. Bring a special tea—a magazine. Offer your ears for listening. Give them your time.
- Think about what is most difficult for them—not what is most convenient for you.
- Do not take over their lives—let them control what they can when everything else seems so out of control.
- Leave the counseling to the professionals. You might encourage everyone to come to you for advice, but you can harm others by stroking your ego.
- Cry along with them, but do not put the person in the position of having to host, entertain, and comfort you.
- Do not tell them how they should feel. Allow them to move through the circumstances at their pace.
Bystanders—family and friends—can ease the suffering or propagate the sorrow. Senseless platitudes wound even further. Murmuring about bootstraps and “moving on” demonstrates insensitivity.
Recognize that you cannot do everything, but sincere gestures buoy those in the midst of difficulties and give breath to those gasping for hope. You cannot help everyone, and no one expects that of you. Remember those who are close to you—in your circle of influence—coworkers, family, friends, neighbors. Help them through The Meantime.