During Hope’s years of severe depression, I learned that having a loved one in constant pain is its own kind of torture. Most of the time it feels like there’s nothing you can really do to help them, and we can’t help but feel a little of their pain for ourselves. In that case, it was my wife. I was around her every day and was deeply connected to her, which made it an especially intense experience. But you can feel at least a little of the same thing towards anyone that you have some kind of connection with. So how do you respond to someone’s pain when you can’t heal them?
First, I would take a look at your motivations. Many times when I’ve done something or thought about doing something to help someone, I’ve realized that I was actually more concerned with myself. I wanted people to like me or think that I was a good person more than I actually wanted to help someone else. So what do you do then—not help them?
Awareness is the first step. Ask yourself if you would still want to help if you never received anything in return, including credit for the good deed. If the answer is “no,” then the best step forward is probably to fake it until you make it. Do your best to act as you would if you didn’t care about what you got out of it and do everything you can to avoid credit or rewards.
Prayer is another great tool. Whether you’re a religious person or not, double-blind studies by people like Larry Dossey, MD, have found that praying for someone can have a profound impact on nearly every aspect of their physical wellbeing—even when they’re unaware of being prayed for! A sincere prayer costs you nothing and is also a great way to reaffirm an appropriately selfless attitude for yourself. So use it!
But maybe the most meaningful thing you can ever do for someone, in my experience, is simply to be there. I remember when my mother died, a lot of friends of the family came by—not just to offer their condolences, but to help out in a lot of small ways. They brought us meals, helped clean up, but maybe most important of all, they were simply there.
As I said earlier, being around a loved one who is in pain is itself painful. But to willingly go through that pain alongside them, even just for a while, can be one of the greatest gifts you can give someone. Of course, people react to pain differently and may sometimes need time to be alone. But when the time comes, a willingness to give someone your time and walk with them through their hardships for a while can really lessen the burden for them, because it proves to them that they’re not alone.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!