I have been calling my sister-in-law every evening. And last night the phone call was so heart wrenching, that I had difficulty sleeping. I want so much to be comforting, but unfortunately do not know what to say, or do to be a comfort. And is there any comfort? I suppose not. And it is so strange to be in the position that so many of my friends and family have been in for the past 6 years. I am definitely at a loss.
So I have been thinking about what it means to be sympathetic, empathetic, and how best to comfort. It is not about giving advice-there really is no advice that you can give a mother who loses a child (or a wife who loses a husband). And as I often remark-it is not a one size fits all world-so what comforted me-may not comfort her. But it also isn't something that you can ask about to the person you are trying to comfort. If you were to ask me - what comforted me when my husband died, or now that I am struggling with the death of my mom, or the death of my niece, I am not sure that I would know. It certainly will be something I think about.
Can we give lessons in empathy? Is there a rule book on what to say and how to say it? I know that my presence is helpful-just be there. But at what point is more required?