Today I want to address people who are part of the support system for others who have been through a major loss. We appreciate all that you do. Your love and support helps us during our most vulnerable time we will ever face. We know that you have a big heart and do what you do with good intentions.
However, there are times when you may be blind to the affect your words or actions have on those you are helping. So I want to give some clarification on some preconceived ideas you may have about people who have been through major losses including death of a loved one, loss of identity and self worth and loss of a job.
We do not expect you to fix us.
The nursery rhyme story of Humpty Dumpty comes to mind. We see him setting on a wall. Life is good for Humpty Dumpty. You may even say it is great. After all, he is setting in a high place. The story does not indicate how long he was sitting on the wall. He could have been in that great place for years.
But then, he fell from his high place. What made him fall? Was it a strong wind? Did someone push him off? Was it a consequence from his own action? We do not know. All we know is that he fell from his place.
Life has a way knocking all of us from our position. It keeps us humble and dependent on one another. Asking for help does not make a person broken. Unlike Humpty Dumpty who was a fragile shell, most people are vulnerable but resilient.
Some people find it is hard to ask for help. Why? There are many reasons. Maybe they have been rejected by their request for help in the past. Maybe they have been taught to never ask or accept help as it is a sign of weakness or failure. Or maybe the person you are asking wants to lecture you about what you did wrong and wants to fix us. They may make you feel inadequate and incapable of doing anything right.
Everyone needs help from time to time. Needing help keeps the human race relational. If we were self efficient, we would not need other people and would become isolated. Think back to a time when you needed help. How did you feel? What was it like when you asked someone for help? Were they gracious or did they make you feel bad for needing help? Did they show empathy or reluctance?
The rest of the nursery rhyme tells us that the King’s horses and King’s men tried to fix Humpty Dumpty. They gathered all the broken pieces. There were big pieces and little pieces. They were unsuccessful. Why? Maybe some pieces were lost forever, disintegrated from the shattering fall. Maybe the King’s men did not have all of the information needed to put Humpty Dumpty back together. Or do you think that it is possible that it wasn’t their job to put Humpty Dumpty back together? Maybe they were to just help Humpty Dumpty gather the pieces so that Humpty Dumpty could put himself back together.
So how can you help without trying to fix the person or situation?
- Listen to the person with your full attention. Don’t be formulating your response to them. Most of the time a response is not required. All that is required is your full attention to what they are saying.
- Show empathy not judgement. Remember your answers to the questions above. Remember what it is like to be vulnerable with another person and how you felt sharing your feelings.
- Do not presume you have the answers and do not share advice that is not asked for. Also, discern the rhetorical questions from questions they want you to answer.
- And most of, remember that we are not broken and do not need you to fix us or our situation. We just need help from time to time.
I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or a question below. If you like what you read, give me a thumbs up and share with your friends.
If you would like more information on how to be part of a support system for your loved one who has suffered a major loss, please email me through my contact page.
“The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross