Going through infertility taught me a lot about how to comfort those going through a life crisis. The natural tendency when we hear bad news is often one of discomfort. What will I say? How can I help? What if I say the wrong thing? I think the last one is the most difficult; when people feel that there is a right and wrong this to say to those in need, they choose to say nothing at all- which tends to be even more hurtful. It is good to want to be sensitive and say the right thing, but we need to know that it doesn't take much to give someone comfort. It doesn't have to be a long drawn out episode. A phone call to check in,"I'm sorry you're going through this," "I'm always here for you."
People tend to try and relate someones problem with someone else they know who went through a similar situation (death, divorce, illness). This is to offer advice or make conversation; however, it is often hurtful because each person's situation is different. And, no one wants unneeded advice when going through a crisis.
I have learned that it is those who are suffering that end up having to comfort their loved ones. The people that love us the most hate to see us unhappy and therefore feel helpless. They need to hear that we are going to be "okay."
Infertility is very devastating and a crisis that is often dealt with in private because so many do not understand the depth of its impact. The grieving and sadness is so complex that it is very hard to relate to. Death or disease are easier to comprehend. We all think about our health and mortality. But, even with these events, many people shy away because of their own discomfort.
That is what I learned about life changing events. Many people simply do not know how to help people who are struggling.
It is important to note that if you have a friend or family member, someone in your community who is going through a life crisis of any sort, the simplest gesture can ease some of the burden of grief. When your friends or family need you the most, work through your discomfort and reach out. Acknowledge the problem. That is key.
Infertility, miscarriage, still birth, a failed adoption, failed IVF, a sick child-- all these things are vast in their promise of extreme grief. Let your friend or family member know that you do not understand what they are going through if you have no experience with any of these incidents. I have learned that can sometimes be the best way to help a loved one cope- acknowledge that you know they are going through an awful time, lend your shoulder to cry on and your time to listen to their problems.
It is actually a very simple solution. Just be there. Words aren't always necessary.