OK

Saying “It is going to be okay” ignores the fact that it is not currently okay. In fact it might suck a lot. Saying “It is going to be okay” ignores the present situation entirely. It glosses over the right now and tries to jump ahead to the good bit. It is the dessert at the end of the meal. Meanwhile you are chewing on this meal which is pretty hard to choke down.

It isn’t honest and it isn’t fair. What people really need is not to hear that it’s going to be okay. What they often need to hear is “I am so sorry that you are going through this” or “Tell me more about it.” or “I can’t imagine how hard this is for you.”

Now don’t confuse it with going into the “It could be worse” line. And don’t ever use the “It’s only…” or “At least it’s not…” openers. Certainly don’t start telling them how your situation is much worse. That doesn’t do any good, and in fact it makes things worse.

People just need to be heard and understood. You can’t rescue them from their pain. But you can certainly do a lot to not make it worse. Acknowledging the reality of their pain and letting them talk is a good start to helping them heal themselves.