Inspiration Report

Guest Blog by Val Walker

Are you trying to support a friend in need, but not sure what to do? Try these tactics for reaching out to people in distress: 

ArtOfComfortingsmall.jpgMake a scrapbook
. It can be painful to discuss a person who’s just passed. Sorting through old photos can help the griever open up about their pain and share stories about their loved one.

Break the ice with a list of what you’re grateful for. Family meals can be tense in the wake of a tragedy.  Having each person present say what they are grateful for helps open up a warm conversation.

Focus on an activity to relive stress and break down boundaries. When people are mourning, an activity can help distract them from the pain. Rent a comedy, go for a hike, or bake cookies.

Offer what you can. No one person can provide everything. Are you serene under pressure, positive in the face of tragedy, or physically strong and able to help with chores? Identify what you can offer, and focus on providing that.

Write a letter. Writing a note assures someone they are in your thoughts. A card can also be a beautiful reminder of your support for years to come. Highlight positive progress (i.e. “I’m impressed that you have returned to work”), and suggest a concrete offer to stay in touch (“Can I call you on Wednesday”, or “Would you like to have lunch at our favorite café next week?”)

Many of us rely on empty platitudes when we uncomfortable or unsure of what to say when someone needs comforting. Try to avoid statements that dismiss feelings and pressure someone to move forward.

Val Walker is author of The Art of Comforting: What to Say and Do for People in Distress (Tarcher, October 2010).

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