Be of Comfort…Now

by Marcy Heim on August 12, 2020

You are bombarded now with messages, free webinars and more on how to pivot, work from home, take your event virtual and, goodness, even build major giving relationships faster than when we could sit down and talk in person! (really?)

But what about September and fall ….and football….and school starting…and church picnics…and sweater weather….and homemade soup…..and apple-picking?

Summer has ended, but what of all those traditions and joys?

I’m sensing a real grief setting in. 

As our lives changed abruptly this spring, at least the days were getting longer and lighter, the air warmer. Outside is easier to manage this. Now we are looking right into fall with darker, longer days and day-after-day announcements of things that just won’t be happening this fall or happening the same.

As development professionals and partners, I’m asking you to be of comfort to others – right now – these next few weeks. There will be a feeling of loss, and for some real loss as the changing of the season pushes us closer together, but with less traditional activities to experience together.

Comforting holding hand

I’m asking you to have your antennae up for those around you who are in need of comfort.  We grieve loss – and now that can well be what we have always done at this time of year.

Comforting one another can be a complex, sometimes clumsy business. “How are you feeling as we head into fall?” gets the conversation started. I’m getting cues through less energy and sighs. Sometimes it’s a verbal, “I’m feeling a bit down – not sure why.” Or, you may know someone who lost a loved-one. With many not even having the traditional funeral services and gatherings, grief can be harder to manage and your need to comfort even greater.

So, here are some tips to help you comfort another:

1. Be intentional: comfort is no accident; when you comfort someone let them know you want to be there for them. If this is sitting quietly across the room, across the picnic table or on zoom, no matter. If this is written, “Sending you my warm hug of comfort.”  “As you begin a very different fall, sending you comfort as we miss so many of our traditions.”

2. Be empathetic: comfort means you understand, they are not alone, you accept their feelings and problems, and even share in the suffering.

3. Use non-verbal behavior: closeness, availability, listening, and safe-touching signal “you can count on me.” Non-verbal behavior is crucial and signifies “truth” and includes eye contact and forward body lean. Acknowledge that this feels different 6 feet apart.

4. Don’t offer advice or material/tactical help: While you may think you understand the pain, refrain from telling them what to do. You may try asking, “Are there things you do when you feel like this that help you?” Let them suggest their own action.

5. Get personal: If you know the person always came to your event and will be missing it, send a photo from the past at the event and remind them of the joy of being together then and that you will be again…but leave the specifics on when out of it.

6. Be tailored and caring: if you want to comfort someone, consider what they need and what makes them feel cared for – not what you would need or how you feel cared for when upset. “Just happen to have one of your fav chocolate chip cookies.”

7. Be safe: in addition to intentional, empathetic, tailored to the other, and caring, comfort happens when there is a clear distinction between self and other. When you comfort someone, you carry your love and good intentions in the same basket as your empathy for their pain. This demands clarity and self-awareness.

8. Finally, Messages to AVOID: “I know how you feel.” People experience hardship in their own way, at their own pace. While empathy is a good thing, this is about them, not you.  “Just let me know how I can help.” Offering help is great, but leaving it up to them can feel overwhelming. Instead, simply let them know that you are there for them. “Everything happens for a reason.” This implies there is a good reason for your loved one’s pain. Don’t shrug off their hardship; recognize it with a gentle, “we’ll get through this together.”

hugging dog

While I am generally a pretty upbeat and positive kind of gal, fall without football is going to hit me hard!  And to be honest, I am MISSING PEOPLE – the hugs, the conferences, the connections.  Sincerely, it is real to grieve what you can no longer do – the people you can not see right now.  And while you can focus on what remains the same – the dedication of our donors, the value of our missions, family, faith and love, there is a sense of loss you can help others get through.

How are you feeling now as we enter fall? What have you found comforting? Have you lifted up another who was grieving what we used to have and do as September approached?  Please reply and share your experience!

You are a gift to your colleagues and donors. Know that when you comfort them, they do feel better and they appreciate you. And know that our very work – inspiring generosity – allows our donors to provide comfort in so many ways.  Ah, that’s better.

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