It Takes a Zoo to Comfort a Grieving Friend

Alligator skin is not bunny fur.  Just like, cow hide is not bird feathers.  So what does this little brief zoology lesson have to do with being a compassionate comforter?  Here it is in one sentence: comfort others in your own skin.

Comfort in your own Skin

If you are not a card or letter writer, you can reach out to a hurting friend through a text or email.  Maybe words are not your strong suite, but you are great at small acts of kindness like bringing a vase of flowers, holding open a door, offering to help with their work load at the office, or polishing shoes.  You get the idea, you are the one who likes doing the small things that doesn’t get much noticed, but you know it will make their day.

Take Them out to the Ball Game

Some of you are the friend who will arrange for a concert, a camping trip, a day drive to the river, lake or ocean.  You might be the one to invite them golfing or fishing, or to the car races.  You know that their isolation will only accentuate their suffering.  You also know that the brief distractions you can share with them will not heal the broken heart or fix their grief.  You know they have to work it through and do their personal hard work of mourning.  Yet, you can give them space to be themselves. Together you share an enjoyable activity and that demonstrates your love and concern for them as they grieve.

Share a Meal

Others of you might be gifted in the food department.  You love to cook, to host people in your home, or to take a meal to a grieving friend.  Maybe cooking is not your thing, but you love food and you like to invite a hurting friend to a great meal at a restaurant.  You might share a few items from the farmer’s market. Stop some fresh produce by and let them know you are thinking about them.  The important thing is to be present with love, patience, and genuine care.  Be prepared to listen to their memories, their confusion, and their sadness.

Spiritual Nurture

Here is another type of comforter.  These are the people who are comfortable with the spiritual side of nurturing a broken-hearted friend.  You will be the one who offers to pray.  Your faith is not shaken when your grieving friend rails against God.  Their anger doesn’t turn you away.  Nor do you try to fix it for them.  Rather, you take a mental note and at a later time, ask them if they are still thinking the same way. Then you graciously share a new perspective of God as it relates to our suffering and leave a little pebble of hope for them to hold onto.

Pity vs. Compassion

There are as many ways to comfort as there are people. I hope you can see that in these few scenarios, there is a place for every type of comforter.  The mantra is simply, comfort others in your own skin.  Stephen Levine puts it so powerfully, “When your fear touches someone’s pain, it becomes pity, when your love touches someone’s pain, it becomes compassion.”  Fear creates walls, barriers, misconceptions, misunderstanding, etc.  While love comes from an authentic core and it brings healing, openness, trust, and comfort.  So whatever skin you wear, do it with love rather than fear and your grieving friend will know it is your genuine care and love that motivates you.

It Takes a Zoo . . .

Keep in mind that it takes a zoo to comfort a grieving friend.  All types of comforting friends, each doing your part to come along and support those who mourn is what makes the positive difference in the lives of the bereaved.   Feather, fur, skin and hide are all needed for the mourning to feel your compassion through a casserole, fishing trip, card, or a vase of flowers.

© Karen Nicola April 2017

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