How to Support a Friend Struggling With Infertility. What You SHOULD Do #3. Tell Her You’re Sorry

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By Kelsey. T. Chun MFT

After admitting honestly and with a heavy heart, “I hate seeing you in pain” (validating option #2), you can add, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” If that is all you can think to say without resorting to one of the three invalidating comments, that’s okay! You can simply admit that you don’t know what to say, but if she wants to talk, you’re here to listen (validating option #1) and if she needs anything, to let you know. (That way, if your friend wants to know what helped your sister overcome infertility or what local doctor you recommend seeing, she knows she can ask you.)

It can be very difficult, even painful, to see a loved one in pain, especially when nothing in our power can change it. We often don’t know what to say when someone else is upset or crying, so we offer a positive outlook, anecdote, or advice. Unfortunately, the experience of the one suffering in these moments is often feeling unheard or unseen—invalidated. Instead of trying to take the other person’s pain away with a well-meaning outlook, anecdote, or advice, try to tolerate the discomfort by simply listening, saying you’re sorry, or empathizing. The latter responses convey “I see you, I hear you, even if I haven’t experienced what you’re going through”—validation. Even if you don’t feel like you’re “doing” anything, simply bearing witness to another’s pain in this way will do more than you know. Your loved one might not have the words to express this at the time (much like you!) but she will appreciate and remember your kind, validating presence.

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