The way to help someone feel better is to let them be in pain

“So what do we do about all the pain we see in the world? All the pain we feel our own lives? And why does it seem that our best efforts to help somebody feel  better always backfire?”

This wonderful piece by Megan Devine is a wise and mind-opening teaching on how to help someone who is grieving, or confronting devastating loss. Thanks to Crystal Conroy for sharing.

Devine is the author of It’s Okay Not to Be Okay and she shared this helpful illustration of how to support someone in their sorrow. “You don’t need to be perfect, just present.”


Illustrator Brittany Bilyeu, via

But most of all, it’s helpful to realize that your job is not to make their pain go away. It’s not to help them cheer up, or move on.

“The way to let someone feel better is to let them be in pain. For giant losses and the ordinary everyday ones. You can’t heal somebody’s pain by trying to take it away from them. It’s a radical act to let things hurt.”

Acknowledgement – the brave act of witnessing someone’s pain – is what Devine calls an amazing “multi-tool.” “It makes things better, even when they can’t be made right.”

What a wonderfully overlooked action this is: to acknowledge. It’s so soft and gentle in its strength. But don’t confuse its quietness with passivity or weakness. The acknowledgers are able to hold space with intention and a muscular physical grace, as if they’re opening up a little room in the air around someone, and holding back the clamour, to just allow a friend to feel. Inspiring, isn’t it?



2 thoughts on “The way to help someone feel better is to let them be in pain

    • Lisa Richardson says:

      Isn’t it wonderful? This word, acknowledgement, feels so hearty to me. It was such a great discovery, it had to be shared. So glad you liked it, Kalmia. xoxo

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