The Power of Empathy and Showing Up for Each Other in Times of Pain

Pain and suffering are universal human experiences. Everyone sometimes faces moments of profound grief, loss or sadness. During these times, the support we receive from others can significantly affect how we cope and heal. Empathy, in particular, plays a crucial role in providing comfort and understanding to those in pain.

Watch this video for my favourite explanation of empathy by Brene Brown

A poignant example of empathy can be found in the story of *The Fault in Our Stars*. In one memorable scene, a mother comforts her daughter by acknowledging her pain. Her daughter has fallen in love with a boy who has cancer. She doesn’t try to tell her she’s young and will get over it, or that there are more fish in the sea. She listens and holds space. And talks about pain being a thing she has carried before. This moment highlights the importance of being present and compassionate when supporting someone in distress.

What to Say to Someone in Pain

When someone you care about is going through a tough time, it can be challenging to find the right words. Here are a few phrases that can help convey empathy and support:

  • ‘’I’m here for you.”This simple statement reassures the person that they are not alone and that you are available to support them.
  • ‘’It’s okay to feel this way’’. Validating their emotions can help them feel understood and accepted.
  • ‘’Take your time. There’s no rush to feel better’’. This acknowledges that healing is a process and that it’s alright to take as much time as they need.
  • ‘’Can I do something to help? Offering practical assistance shows that you are willing to support them in tangible ways. Offer 2-3 options of how you can actually help. 


What Not to Say to Someone in Pain

Equally important is knowing what to avoid saying, as certain comments can inadvertently cause more harm than good:

– “I know exactly how you feel.” Even if you have experienced something similar, everyone’s pain is unique, and it’s important to recognise their individual experience.

– ‘’You should be over this by now’’ Healing doesn’t follow a set timeline, and suggesting that someone should have moved on can invalidate their feelings.

– “Everything happens for a reason.” While this may be meant to comfort, it can come across as dismissive of their pain and may not align with their beliefs.

– “At least [it’s not worse].” Comparing their pain to other situations can minimise their experience and make them feel guilty for their feelings.

The Importance of Empathy in Supporting Others

Empathy is about truly listening and being present with someone in their suffering. It’s not about offering solutions or trying to fix their problems but about being a comforting presence. By showing empathy, we can help alleviate some of the emotional burden they carry and make them feel seen and heard. Listening and being there is sometimes the best and only thing you can do.

In a world where pain and suffering are inevitable, how we show up for each other matters immensely. Empathy helps us connect on a deeper level, it helps us feel connected, seen, heard and less alone. Whether it’s through a kind word, a listening ear, or simply being there, we can all play a part in helping those around us navigate their difficult times.

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief or emotional pain, consider reaching out for professional support. At The Therapy Hub counselling and psychology clinic, we are here to help you through these challenging times with compassion and understanding.

Take care and remember, you don’t have to face this alone.