This is a tough subject because sometimes I don’t know how to give someone comfort, or maybe I should say I’m not certain what kind of comfort they need. Do you need a hug, ice cream, new dress, alone time, advice or possibly a few shots of whiskey? Maybe you need all of that or maybe it’s best not to say anything at all and just be that soft place to fall.
The Merriam-Webster definition is this: 1) To cause (someone) to feel less-worried, upset, frightened, etc.: to give comfort to (someone) 2) to give strength and hope to 3) to ease the grief or trouble of.
To cause someone to feel less or ease their trouble. Think about that for a moment or two. To me that means lessening whatever burden they perceive themselves to be having. This is probably where I would give them a hug and make some homemade chocolate chip cookies, do you feel better yet?? That doesn’t always work though. When I’m around people, I can get a good sense of their feelings. I don’t know how to explain this to you but it’s almost like I absorb whatever it is they have going on. For me, feelings are contagious. Any negative feelings they have, I soak up like a sponge and it’s not intentional. It’s like having a tornado swirling around in my head that I can’t make sense of. I just have a great deal of empathy for people.
You know what’s it like being around someone troubled. They have a tendency to be a wee bit irrational. And it’s understandable, they’re upset, of course they’re not going to be thinking clearly. That’s why they’re talking to you, maybe not in a language you understand (honestly most people don’t make a lick of sense when upset), but because they trust you to be that soft place to fall. How you handle it determines whether they feel better or worse.
I have a dear friend who has a lot of turmoil in her life right now. Problems at work, a divorce, loss of her home and her parents are having serious health issues. That’s a lot happening all at the same time. So like the sponge I am, I soak up her bad feelings and try to ease her stress. She made me a list of all the negatives and I took that same list and converted each item on her list into a positive. It wasn’t easy in some instances but I gave it a shot. At the end of my list I also added a little personal note that said this, ” God has been working very hard to get you in the right place, trust his direction”. I wasn’t able to give her a hug or cookie ( she prefers whiskey anyway) because of the distance between us but I could feel her relief. I gave her a soft place to fall.
It’s difficult to open yourself up and allow yourself to be vulnerable. You just don’t know how the other person will react and that may be why so many people stuff their feelings deep down inside and try to handle it on their own. Maybe that’s why so many people would rather pay to see a therapist. A therapist will help you calm down and see things in a more rational way (and you might get a cookie.) They ease your trouble in a positive way. So remember, it took courage for someone to open up to you all the craziness in their head, you just need to be that soft place for them to fall.