Today our minds and heart are reeling from another senseless tragedy. As I sit and watch information continue to unfold about the Las Vegas attack, I am stunned, confused, and pained. As of this date, this is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Situations like this as well as natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey can traumatize us and shake our sense of comfort and safety.
How do we handle the emotional impact of tragedies, disasters, and heartbreak? What do we say to comfort others? What can we do to find peace within ourselves?
Honestly, it can be hard to determine what to say to others as they grieve. We may have difficulty managing our emotions because the experience of devastating events touches us all.
It’s important for us to be sensitive, comforting, and encouraging. We do this by listen without trying to fix “the problem”, allow others to process without interruption, be patient as people express their feelings, and be open to the expression of grief.
Below are some phrases I uses to provide comfort, understanding, and validation without trying to explain or rationalize other’s thoughts and emotion.
- It’s understandable that you’re upset.
- What you’re feeling can be a normal and natural reaction to this situation.
- I am here for you.
- You are not alone.
- I don’t know what I can say
- My heart goes out to you.
- What can I do so support you?
It’s important to avoid making statements that may appear to be insensitive.
- I know how you feel.
- Time heals all wounds.
- This must have been God’s will.
- Don’t feel bad.
- It’s going to be okay.
These statements may be difficult and hurtful because they can minimize or invalidate a person’s lived experience and the reality of their situation. Why do people say such things?
- They may lack empathy – The basic definition of empathy is putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Sometimes people lack the ability to do so and they may have a hard time realizing the emotional or physical pain the other person is experiencing.
- Victim blaming – Sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile why bad things happen to good people. Some people find it easier to rationalize this by believing that the victim did something to bring this upon themselves.
- A loss for words – We’ve all struggled with trying to find the right words to say. As a result, we give canned responses which may give the appearance that we lack compassion and understanding of the other person. It’s okay to say that you don’t know what to say.
We all have made the mistake of saying something that might have made a difficult situation worse. Now more than ever we need to sensitive and understanding to each other as these challenging times create vulnerability, heartbreak, and fear. I encourage you not to only think of the Golden Rule as a benchmark of ethical conduct:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But consider and practice the Platinum Rule:
Treat others the way they want to be treated.
In order to abide by the Platinum Rule, we must learn to view the world as others see it, to adapt our communication style to their behavioral style, to lead others in a way that motivates them to want to follow, and to embrace our differences while admiring the strengths in others.
Let’s keep this in mind today and everyday.
Peace and Blessings everyone. I am here for you.