A few weeks ago I wrote about those times when we feel like we’re under water and we’re trying to help a drowning friend, but everything is in slow motion, silent and hollow, and we can’t communicate and it’s so frustrating.


One of the common elements I notice with friends who are in hard seasons is loneliness. Not necessarily that they are alone, but they feel isolated. We feel bad and we want to fix it or DO something and we don’t know what to say or do.

My friend Betsy Anderson came in and shared on this subject with a community of young married couples I shepherd at church last Sunday.

She is wise and kind and has experienced a tremendous amount of pain herself.  She has written curriculum and taught workshops on caring for each other in community.  I’m not good at this, but I’m learning from her. Here are a few of her good insights:

  1. Show up to just BE with the person in pain. Don’t focus on the problem. Focus on the person.
  2. Listen. Then listen some more. In order to do that you need to stop talking.
  3. Don’t try to fix or move to facts. Just validate the feelings of the other.
  4. Say something other than “How are you doing?” Like I said in my recent post, asking “How are you?” can be a maddening question for someone in pain.  Consider other options like:
    • I can’t imagine what it must feel like for you to be going through this. (this may prompt them to share what it IS like) 
    • This must be so hard for you. 
    • I’d love to hear more about _______(a person who died, or your friend’s experience) if you want to share.
    • Consider saying how glad you are to see the person. Often people  AREN’T glad to see a person in pain and they can feel like Eeyore showing up at a party.
  5. Remember the value of non-verbals that communicate “I see you. I care.” Eye contact, a hug, a tissue for tears, a text…

Oh, and one more thing that I’d add to these…

Your friends need you to listen, but they also need you to remind them that they are not alone and they are brave.  There are courageous choices they are making even in the midst of a season when there may be very few good choices to make.

Never under-estimate the power listening OR the power of life-giving words.

What would you add about caring for people in pain?