David Brooks wrote a beautiful piece in the New York Times about how to help people who are suffering or grieving. It was inspired by the Woodiwiss family, who has endured multiple traumas. Here are a few of their thoughtful tips that struck me…
Do be there. Some people think that those who experience trauma need space to sort things through. Assume the opposite. Most people need presence.
Don’t compare, ever. Don’t say, “I understand what it’s like to lose a child. My dog died, and that was hard, too.” Even if the comparison seems more germane, don’t make it. Each trauma should be respected in its uniqueness. Each story should be heard attentively as its own thing.
Do bring soup. The non-verbal expressions of love are as healing as eloquence. When Mary was living with Catherine during her recovery, some young friend noticed she didn’t have a bathmat. He went to Target and got a bathmat. Mary says she will never forget that.
Do not say “you’ll get over it.” “There is no such thing as ‘getting over it,’ ” Catherine writes, “A major disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no ‘back to the old me.’ ”
Do be a builder. The Woodiwisses distinguish between firefighters and builders. Firefighters drop everything and arrive at the moment of crisis. Builders are there for years and years, walking alongside as the victims live out in the world. Very few people are capable of performing both roles.
Read the full column here. It’s so enlightening. Have you lost a loved one or been through a trauma? What did people say or do that brought you comfort? My mom once told me that when her mother died, people would seem scared of bringing it up, as if they didn’t want to remind her, but of course she was thinking of her mother all the time.
(Photo by Nicole Franzen)