1. Listen carefully. Be mindful of a (natural) tendency to suggest solutions to “fix” the problem. Also be aware of your own internal dialogue, try to separate any fear or anxiety you’re feeling from your response. Those feelings are important to acknowledge and process, and maybe even articulate, but it’s best if your responses aren’t unknowingly slathered in your own discomfort.
2. Don’t pity. Although there are those of us who feel the need to solicit pity, most of us want to be understood and offered empathy. It’s really hard to dig deep and find ways to relate and extend our own understanding (of the individual and the situation) if we’re busy feeling sorry for the person we’re talking with.
3. Be still. So often, in our efforts to sidle up next to someone and extend compassion or share our love, we desperately desire to DO SOMETHING. Sometimes actions are called for and very appropriate. Sometimes though, our dear ones just need us to be present and sit in the uncomfortable places they’re in without questioning how or when they’ll move out of them.
Bearing the burdens of mortality, alone or alongside someone dear to us, is hard work and the effort entails a lot of endurance but with some practice and patience, we can see a grace-full increase in our abilities to meaningfully care for those we love.