In our society, we don’t always know how to simply be. We are much better at doing. The ability to be with pain instead of trying to fix it or dismiss it is one of the most healing ways to support someone who is grieving. During my years in home-based hospice work, sitting with the families of people who have just died, to counseling people through their immense grief at the Wendt Center, I have learned there is no fancy therapeutic technique more powerful than offering a moment of shared disbelief, grief, or loss for words.
Let’s just say it—being present with someone who is suffering is often scary. Watching someone else in emotional agony reminds us of our own vulnerability and fragility. Even if just for a moment, confronting the pain of others requires us to confront both the pain in our past and our anxieties about the future. This inclination, to connect the interaction to our own pain, is natural.

In fact, we have a word for it at the Wendt Center: Empathy .