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Give Your Suffering Friends Time to Heal

·318 words·2 mins

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

When you’re suffering, trying to make sense of a senseless situation, and trying to reflect and heal, people are quick to spout pat answers at you. They want you to find an answer quickly and aren’t afraid to employ thought-terminating cliches for this purpose:

“This is all part of God’s plan.”

“You will be just fine.”

“Things have a way of working out for the best.”

While these can be offered in kindness, they have a way of feeling dismissive. And certainly premature.

Closure and healing, if they’re going to be complete and comprehensive, usually take time. There’s really no rushing the process. No way of living through the questions with artificial celerity.

This is bad news if you have a fixer personality and your friend is suffering. But as I wrote in that post, the biggest gift we can give someone in those situations is just holding space for them, being there for them. Not fixing them. Not advising (unless solicited directly). And certainly not attempting to circumvent the suffering without honoring it properly.

Being there is the key. And being open, receptive, and supportive. The proverbial shoulder to cry on is a mighty help indeed.

It’s so simple and yet so difficult to achieve in a world that wants everything to happen lightning fast, even healing. And such counterintuitive behavior from those who eagerly look to fix problems for others and improve their surroundings.


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