Life, like the ocean, is versatile. It is ever-changing and unpredictable – we might be amazed in a moment for its tranquility and peace, but intimidated the moment after for its storms and tantrums. It is from such unpredictability of life which gives us the capability to stay strong in the midst of adversity, and be sympathetic to the ones around you who are hit and overwhelmed by a tragedy because in a way, we feel that we understand each other.
Yet, it is often that this feeling of sympathy – or empathy – comes and goes. We care about the person who was affected by the tragedy, but we are unsure of how we are able to offer them our support without offending them. In the end, aside from saying “I’m sorry for your loss”, we have done little to make our friends, or family feel better. This brings us to the question: how can we sympathize and support our loved ones through tragic events?
1. Listen to their stories.
Before anything – we need to sit down and listen to what they have to say because it is their stories instead of ours. By simply listening to their perspectives, stories and memories, we are giving them space and time to grieve, and gradually pick up the courage to stand up once again. We seem to be bounded by the idea that people who were wounded by a tragic event require our counselling and advice. Yet, more often than not, our advice sounds scathing, unhelpful and downright disrespectful. Our desire to help has sometimes, unknowingly and unconsciously, caused more pain to the victims instead of being truly helpful. If we really wish to be of any assistance, we must first disregard our opinions, hold back our comments, and lend them our shoulders and our ears. After all, it is them – and only them who could pick themselves up, recover, and grow even stronger than before.
2. Understand that there are more than tangible ways to contribute.
Sending a large bouquet of flowers is one way of showing your care. But it is equally, if not more meaningful to drive up to their house, give them a warm hug and really listen to them. Offering to help pick up the kids from school, or bringing some food over so they would not have to worry about making dinner are also good alternatives. We need to understand that both physical and mental support is crucial to the victims of tragedies – letting them know that they have the world behind them as they fall, grieving, and praying for them and their family would already make a huge difference.
3. Accept that you could not care about everything about everyone.
It is important to note that above all, we are still humans. There is only so much we could care – before we crack. Diluting our empathy a thousandfold so we can listen to, understand, and grieve for everything that happens to every single person around us would only wear us down eventually, rendering us exhausted and wary. How can you inspire hope in others when you extinguish the one inside yourself? In the end, there are times when we could only let our loved ones be, and allow them to take care of themselves and move on.
The amount of sorrows in the world could be truly suffocating sometimes; but it is only in darkness when you see the brightest light, when the support from friends, family members and the community gives out the warmest glow. Simply be present as your loved ones fight through adversity, and you will be surprised at how much better they will fare.