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Practice Compassion – Look Beyond Your Own Pain

- By Dwaipayan, 25 September 2020 | 7 MIN READ


Compassion is humanity’s greatest strength. A student once put a question to anthropologist Margaret Mead, “What is the most primitive sign of civilization?” The student was however confident to get an answer of a clay pot, a grinding stone, or maybe the invention of wheels. Margaret Mead thought for a while and then said, “A healed femur.”

A femur bone in the body links the hip to the knee and is the longest bone. In societies without the benefits of modern medicine, it takes almost six weeks of rest for a fractured femur to heal. A healed femur indicates that someone or a group of people have cared for the injured person, did their hunting and gathering, stayed with them, and provided physical protection and human companionship until the injury could heal.

Margaret explained that where the law of the jungle, it’s the survival of the fittest, no healed femurs are found. The first sign of civilization is compassion, seen in a healed femur.

During times of distress, empathy is something the sufferer relies on to survive their ordeal such as following the death of a loved one. This is the bitter truth, life is uncertain. 

All grievers appreciate the compassion extended to them. There are several expressions of compassion that are more helpful than others. We don’t want to talk about such unfortunate events because only the griever goes through such a turmoil, even though here are five don’ts (and dos) for people wanting to comfort grievers.

Avoid talking about the person lost, by bringing up their name or stories about them will make the sorrow worse.

When you’re bringing them up in conversation would hurt or intensify the sadness in the griever. The opposite was the case. You can comfort the griever by telling “I love talking about John and I always will because that is how I keep him alive and with me” maybe sharing a funny story about him or sweet memories that enjoyed together. Grievers at those moments are in a psychological state of mind to reach out to anyone, so please be sensible.

Just don’t ask open-ended questions.

Most of us in such a situation tend to put open-ended questions like “Do you need anything?” Or “How can I help?” Turns out that these could turn to be the most traumatic questions you can ask a sufferer. 

For example, when someone is grieving or upset, food is one of the most stressful things to talk about. And questions like what you want to have is far from away a good idea to console the griever. It will be much easier. “My life was made simpler by friends and family who brought me food already prepared. I just put them in the refrigerator until I wanted it” says Annie who has lost her husband some time ago.

Make simple choices: “Do you wish to have a soup or salad?” and just avoid open-ended questions.

Don’t assume the person suffering will want to do the same things they have done in the past.

Tune-up and meet the sufferer where they are and not where they once were. “We enjoyed secluded road trips to basketball games and live band performances. Today, I can only enjoy those things with very few people I feel very safe”

People might just assume that because they enjoyed it previously would obviously fall back into it again. Things could be different now and the griever could be pulled to a string of grieving memories connected to those events. However, some people cope with their grieving that way, but most do not.

A better idea could be rather spending a day outdoors in nature quietly, or phone a friend and say, “We’re coming over and watch a movie? You don’t have to entertain us just stay in your pajamas.” 

DO leave the mundane conversations, don’t bother the griever with petty things.

Life is about helping each other whenever it is needed. A griever may no longer have any patience for pettiness. Whether it’s about the traffic or about the rude checkout lady at the supermarket. “John died two and a half years ago, and it is still a struggle climbing out of bed and getting through the day.” With that kind of daily battle, the griever has no tolerance for those mundane conversations anymore. 

Do yourself and the griever a favor—keep the relation as natural it could be and cut down on non-essential conversations. 

Don’t Judge, understand those outbursts and breakdowns 

A griever may look simply fine after a few weeks or months does not mean he or she is no longer suffering. It just means they are getting better at improving their appearance, the pain deep within continues, it’s just the daily struggles that remain unseen by the public.

You might feel the griever is kind of composed, but there are so many challenges involved that can send them spiraling. Every day is different for them. So, resist the urge to judge another’s progress or choices. They are in a roller coaster and really are doing the best they can.

In closing, their lives will never be the same again, but it’s your dependable presence and genuine support that can make them feel better.




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