One of the things I say most often in my job and in talking with people who have been hurt is “I’m sorry”. Sometimes that is the only thing you can say. As a society, we don’t always know the right things to say when someone is hurting. As women, we generally want to fix the broken and men…well they usually want to run for the hills. Each and everyday I talk to people who are struggling with something awful that has happened to them. Many times I am on the phone for an hour or more just listening. Sometimes it’s anger coming back at me from the other end of the phone, sometimes it’s sadness and tears pouring through a cracked voice and whispers. Either way, “I’m sorry” is what I say. They are not just words, they are my true feelings. I am so sorry that this has happened, I am sorry you are going through this, I’m sorry you have to deal with this right now. I feel absolutely horrible for these men and women. I truly do, but there is nothing I can do in that moment to make their pain, frustration, sadness or disappointment go away so I don’t try. I can only feel for them and listen for as long as they need me to.
Of course “I’m sorry” isn’t the only thing I say to them. I also try to encourage them. I tell them that it isn’t their fault, that they didn’t or don’t deserve what they are going through. I tell them that they are strong even when they think they are not. Coming forward, standing up for themselves is already showing how strong they are. Most of all I just listen. Sometimes they have so much to say and letting them say it is enough to make them feel better. In many cases, they haven’t been able to use their voice for some time and letting them use it now is exactly what they need. It empowers them, gives them the strength they need to keep fighting for what they deserve.
So for that friend, family member, co-worker, stranger that might be experiencing something horrific just listen to their story, tell them you’re sorry. Don’t run away from them for fear you might say the wrong thing. Don’t ignore them because you don’t know how to handle their tears. Support them, listen to them, feel for them, encourage them. Don’t blame them, don’t judge them, don’t try to fix them instantly. Let them feel their own pain, let them know it’s ok to hurt or to cry. Let them know that you are there to support them in whatever way you can. You don’t have to be a certified counselor to help someone else. All you have to do is care. Sometimes all they need is to feel human, to feel important, to feel cared about. Isn’t that what you want when you hurt?