Random Conversations

Listening Across the Miles To Support a Friend in Need

Listening Across the Miles To Support a Friend in Need

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Emotional support can be offered in a multitude of ways

As much as I relish the joyous conversations I have with those I hold dear, sometimes it is those relaying sad news that become the most meaningful.

A friend is facing what is most probably the final decline of her husband’s health, and she feels alone and scared. She is trying her best to navigate the care of someone who has a highly diminished ability to allow her to do that – and doing this without the balm of emotional support.

We have been friends for decades, keeping up with each other mostly through calls. She took the occasion of my birthday to share the news. Birthdays and holidays have always been our time to check in with each other and catch up.

When Words Fail

There are no magic words that will make people feel better. What I have learned is that simply listening as the pain, frustration, and fear is spoken can be healing on its own. And that is what I have been doing.

On my birthday call, I told her when I’d call again, and I did that as promised. We recently had our third call, and again I listened as she shared more and more heartbreak. As we were about to say goodbye, she told me she knew something was changing.

Their dog did not normally go to her husband when he was in bed, but suddenly she appeared by his side. The next day, she was on the bed lying next to him, which had never happened. I have often read that animals know when their beloved humans are about to pass. Is that what was happening?

Compassion Doesn’t Have to be Seen to be Heard

When we speak, I validate all that she is doing. She needs to hear how much she has given of herself to be of help – far beyond her physical capability. I also gently speak what I believe to be the truth. Her husband is giving up. He is losing his will to continue.

Her response? “I know, and that terrifies me.”

Most recently, I said her grief will change from that of watching him get weaker and weaker, to that of mourning his absence. Neither is easy. She said she knew that, as well.

Each call ends with her thanks for our friendship, my understanding of what she is going through, and my caring – caring that she feels across the miles. I wasn’t physically with her, but she was no longer alone.

A Reflection

There were times in my younger years when I struggled to know what to say. It became socially painful and I shied away to protect myself. Over the years, I learned the power of simply sitting with someone – in person or virtually – and being there for them.

Together we create a caring cocoon of love and acceptance in which they can speak the truth of their unspeakable pain. I can support their experiences and emotions without judgment. They feel heard, and that has the power to lighten the pain just a bit.

When I focus on listening, the “right” words tend to come unbidden. As a note, I believe there are many versions of “right” as opposed to one definitive response. And when words do not come, we sit in that silence together. Being in our cocoon together is all that is required – until the next call.

A Question

As you reflect on times you were in need of emotional support, what was most helpful to you? What did you learn?

Photo by Jay Castor on Unsplash

Cathy Joseph is the author of the Random Conversations blog and is currently seeking representation for her book, The Art of Having a Delicious Conversation.

© 2022 Cathy Joseph. All rights reserved.

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