While it is natural to want to do whatever you can to help them feel better, listen carefully to what it is they are truly asking for. Extend to them a calm, soothed nervous system where their experience can be validated and held, exactly as it is. Ensure them that they need not "get over it," "accept everything as it is," "stay in the present," shift, transform, or heal in order for you to stay close.
To provide such an environment, you must first offer safe passage for the unmetabolized in yourself: the unmet sadness, unacknowledged fear, discarded grief, disavowed hopelessness, and disembodied aloneness. Otherwise, you may rush to talk them out of their experience prematurely, urgently spinning to relieve them of their feelings as a way to cut into your own anxiety and discomfort. All the while subtly and unconsciously turning from the raging intelligence buried within the dark.
Together with them, make the commitment to not pathologize their experience. Fear is not pathology. Hopelessness is not pathology. Grief is not pathology. They are path.
Collect the pieces of the broken world and create a container of empathy and love for the crumbled hopes and dreams to be held and tended to with the pieces of light. Honor the holy truth that the forms that love take will always fall apart – for this is their nature – in order that they may come back together in more integrated and cohesive ways.
Please do whatever you can to help others in whatever way you are able: attune to their emotional experience such that they feel felt, listen carefully to what they are saying, and how they are attempting to make sense of this time.
Slow way down, bracket your favorite psychological and spiritual jargon and theories, and sink into the space between you, for it is filled with sacred data. Hold them in your heart, speak kind words, and provide safe passage for soul to disclose its mysteries. And remind them that love is here and is alive.
My new book - A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times - is now available for pre-order at Amazon and will be published by Sounds True in November.
My previous book - The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You - is available at Amazon.