We like to think of ourselves as the kind of people who will “be there” for those in our lives who are experiencing pain. I know I do.
When walking this path alongside a friend with cancer, I had to take a good, hard look at how I was showing-up for this person who needed a depth of support I had never had to give to someone in my life. She and I talked a lot about this. She was able to articulate her needs very clearly and also what pissed her off about how some people were, and were not, showing-up to support her. I learned so much about this process from her faith and honesty. I had to constantly check myself to make sure I was showing up for her, not to prove something to myself about the kind of person I was. I was willing to listen, show-up how she needed rather than to meet some expectation in my own mind, to set boundaries for myself that allowed me to remain connected and compassionate, and to constantly be asking myself “How can I make this lighter for her without trying to fix it?” A person’s grief is theirs to come through.
Some of these tips may feel harsh. They are intended to encourage us all to be incredibly mindful in our efforts to show up for others, to recognize and allow their pain, to not try and fix it for them, to recognize and allow our own discomfort in seeing them in pain. Being able to truly show up for someone in pain is an incredible gift and it is also incredibly difficult. Be patient, be present, be connected to your own needs, and don’t be performative about your generosity.
People in need don’t like to be paraded around so that you can be rewarded for your generosity. If you help a friend or a struggling colleague do it for them and for your own humanity but keep your good deeds off social media. Living in our modern world is incredible but it also requires a level of self-awareness and consciousness that requires work. Please show-up to one another with compassion and have regular conversations with yourself about what you can manage, what feels right, and what is best for the person.