People ask me sometimes, What do you say when..? and lay out a really horrific situation. What do you say when a friend’s mom just died? What do you say when someone’s really miserable and stuck and there doesn’t seem to be anything to do to help?
What’s the compassionate thing to say?
You don’t say anything.
Because saying gets in the way.
Too often our well-intentioned efforts at helping, fixing, solving–saying, even, convey just the opposite: Stop having such a hard time so I can feel more comfortable.
When things are really tough, when we’re lost or in immense pain, what we need is someone to be with us. To sit next to us in a way that says I’m not going anywhere.