My first picture of manhood was my grandfather, Jerod Hastings Rolle, who was also my larger-than-life superhero. And the most impactful words he ever spoke to me were, “Son, whatever you do, be a good man.” I had no idea those would be the last words my grandfather would ever speak to me again before he died just an hour later. Being the child of a single mom, with no father in the home, not only did I not know how to be the “good man” my grandfather wanted me to be, I didn’t even know how to accept, deal, and heal from the pain of losing him. The realities of life dictate that all of us are either hurting, healing, or getting ready to be hurt.And no one, including my mother (who was also grieving), seemed to know how to help me.
The realities of life dictate that all of us are either hurting, healing, or getting ready to be hurt. So, what do you do to help someone you love or care about heal when they’re experiencing emotional pain? Allow me to suggest 3 things to avoid and 3 things to do.
1. Don’t try to minimize their pain and suffering.
Allow them to feel the pain, not protect them from it. Your presence alone helps them heal, so don’t feel compelled to rescue them and try to “explain away” their pain. Just be there for them.
2. Don’t tell them you understand when you don’t.
Unless you’ve gone through the exact same thing they’ve been through and experienced the same kind of loss, you don’t know what they’re going through and the emotional battles within. Just be quiet and listen.
3. Don’t ask them, “What can I do to help?”
If they’re really in a lot of pain, they may not even know what they need at the moment. They may not know what to ask you for. Also, some may be afraid to ask for help, because they don’t want to be a burden on you. So, just try to do for them what you know needs to be done without their asking you to do it.
And when they’re ready to move forward, and they’re ready to talk, and listen, here are 3 simple things you can do to help them in the healing process:
1. Remind them of who they are.
Sometimes what we feel can become our identity, and when we’re grieving, it can leave us hurting and living without hope. Remind the person you love that his or her pain is not who they are. They’re bigger than their pain. And remind them that they’re loved by you and others, not because of their pain, but rather because of who they are.
2. Remind them of what they know.
Sometimes our pain can be so great, we can’t see, feel, or think of anything but our pain. So, try to get the person you love to focus on the “facts,” not just their feelings, by gently reminding them of what is still true and what they still have. Don’t be afraid to remind them of the people who are still depending on them. When I was grieving after my wife divorced me, my 9-year-old son reminded me that I still had him and that he still loved me.
3. Remind them of where they’ve been.
Sometimes hurting people spend so much time in their pain that they forget about how much pain they’ve overcome in the past. No, it’s not good to live in the past, but there are definitely some benefits in learning from it. Remind your loved ones how they successfully persevered and overcame their past pain and how much stronger they are now because of it.
The truth is, there’s no easy way to help a hurting person heal. But accept the fact that your presence in their life, at this particular moment, is a blessing. That means you’re a part of their healing process. So, be present, be quiet, be ready to initiate, and be a reminder of God’s love, grace, and mercy towards them.
Sound off: What things have you said to help someone who’s hurting?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “When you’re hurting, what can I do to make you feel better?”