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When Others Are Hurting

Updated: Apr 25

A few years ago our city was hit with an unusual October blizzard and when it was over one of our cats was missing. My youngest daughter was devastated and shed many tears imagining the worst had happened and that we’d never see Gemma again.

During the last few months of my mom's life, it seemed that almost every time I called via FaceTime I would wake her up from a nap. During the weeks that I spent visiting her, many of our conversations begin with, “Did you sleep Ok?” or “How are you feeling?” Her shortness of breath was painful to watch and she grew weaker every time I saw her.

Five and a half years ago one of my brothers buried his wife on his 42nd birthday. He had just been through what I’m assuming was the worst 6 months of his life. His wife had battled leukemia for the second time in 5 years and unlike the first time, no treatment they tried brought about the hoped-for results.

Obviously, It is hard to watch the people we love hurting. It is hard to know what to say, how to act. We try to soothe them with trite words or awkward conversations. We may avoid addressing the situation altogether or feel irritated when they haven’t "gotten over it" as fast as we want them to.

The truth is, when others are hurting we are also hurting. We too feel sadness; I was also worried about our lost cat, I carried a weight of sadness with me constantly as I faced losing my mom, and I was devastated when my sister-in-law died. I loved her, she was my friend.

Allowing pain actually helps it stop hurting so much – eventually.
Allowing pain actually helps it stop hurting so much – eventually.

But the hurt is also there for us because seeing the ones we love hurting, makes us uncomfortable.

We don’t like that kind of discomfort, it feels terrible. We want their pain to end, so that ours can too. That is where the well-meaning, but missing-the-target comments come from. After my mom’s diagnosis of Pancreatic cancer, friends would remind her that that’s what Steve Jobs died of or that they knew someone who had died within a few months of their diagnosis.  

My brother got a few unwelcome comments soon after his wife passed; People asked when he might start dating again and commented how It must have been her time to go. Not helpful at all.

Caring for my parents and listening to my brothers’ experience gave me some insight into how to responding to other's when they are hurting.

When our cat went missing after the blizzard, we talked about the real possibility that Gemma wouldn’t come home. We made plans for what we could do to find her. I hugged my daughter, acknowledging and apologizing that it was so hard.

I allowed her to hurt and I allowed myself to hurt because she was hurting.

What does it look like to actually be honest about how we’re feeling and share that?

Something like – I’m so sorry. I can’t believe it. This must be really hard. I want to help but I’m not sure how. I’m happy to listen, if that would help. Is it Ok to share a special memory I have?

Shining a light on the pain doesn’t intensify it –  ignoring it does! Allowing the pain to be seen is like giving patient attention to a misbehaving child; acting up to get more attention isn’t required.

Allowing pain actually helps it stop hurting so much – eventually.

After four days, Gemma appeared at our front door and our joy was as full as our sadness had been.

I sat on the couch for hours-at-a-time after my sister-in-law passed away. I stared our the window, I went for walks searching for her presence in nature. I slept and cried. I paid attention to whatever my body communicated that it needed, and I honored it the best I could.

My mom's passing is the most sacred experience I've ever had. My body didn't feel like a large enough vessel to contain the emotions I felt. I have done the work ever since to grow my capacity to feel so strongly.

I’ve heard another life coach** say “Emotions are not a problem to be solved.”

Exactly. Emotions are vibrations in our bodies caused by thoughts in our mind. They are messages of what we are experiencing. They are a way to process what is happening to us. They are meant to be there, and our bodies are capable of feeling them even though our brains think we’re going to die trying.

Thanks for the warning brain, we can handle this.



P.S. Begin by just noticing your emotions instead of reacting to them. Often the discomfort we experience takes less than two minutes to pass, if we tune into it. If you have any questions or are ready to give this a try, Sign up here for a FREE session. I’m here to provide a safe place for you to face your feelings. 

**Krista St. Germain, Life Coach for Widowed Moms


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