Have you ever had something difficult happen to a friend and struggled with what to say? If so, then Helping Those Who Hurt by H. Norman Wright is a must read! This practical, insightful resource walks readers through ways they can be an encouragement and a help to someone who has experienced a devastating loss. Whether a friend is going through a divorce, lost a spouse, has been diagnosed with a deadly disease, or experienced heartache or trauma, the question is not whether or not to help but rather how and when to get involved and show that you care.
As a licensed therapist and certified trauma specialist, Wright shares his own story of losing his son at a young age. Thus, his perspective is personal and his advice highly practical. He writes:
“Helping others includes experiencing genuine interest and love for the individual. We can listen and rely upon the power of God for knowing how to respond, but we must also have a genuine interest and love. If it’s not there, you can’t fake it, and your friend will know if you are. It’s so easy to rattle off an answer that’s superficial and doesn’t meet you friend’s need… To help someone else, you need to know when to speak and when enough has been said.”
Wright goes inside the mind of both the person who wants to help and the person who has experienced the loss. He explains the struggles of each party. The one who wants to help may be confronted by someone who is suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or experiencing the different stages of grieving. Handling the various emotional responses can be challenging and exhausting. At the same time, the one who has experienced the loss may be disoriented, disengaged or trying to distance themselves from those they need. Understanding the responses can go a long way to strengthening the relationship in the long term. He writes:
“What can you expect from a friend who is hurting? Actually, not very much. And the more her experience moves beyond a loss and closer to a crisis or trauma, the more this is true. Sometimes you’ll see a friend experiencing a case of the ‘crazies.’ Her response seems irrational. She’s not herself. Her behavior is different from or even abnormal compared to the person not going through a major loss. Just remember, she’s reacting to an out-of-the-ordinary event. What she experienced is abnormal, so her response is actually quite normal.”
One of the best sections of the book offers a list of words better left unsaid. It highlights topics and comments that should be taboo. Comments like “Time will heal” and “God needs him/her more than you do” often do more harm than good. In addition, friends should avoid any clichés that discount a person’s feelings, such as “I know just how you feel” and “If there is anything I can do, just call me.” Instead, those who want to help should be willing to listen and offer specific services, whether it’s making a meal, cleaning around the house or helping with errands.
Helping Those Who Hurt is a great resource for anyone who wants to make a difference in the lives of those around them.
--- Reviewed by Margaret Oines
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