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How to help a friend who's hurting

June 03, 1999|By Kate Coleman

Your friend is brokenhearted. Your friend is sad.

It doesn't matter what caused the hurt - the breakup of a relationship, the death of a loved one, retirement, kids leaving home or surviving a tornado. Any major transition in life requires adjustment.

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How can you help? What can you do?

Be there. Primarily, provide your presence, says Patricia Robinson, associate chaplain and licensed professional counselor at Brook Lane Health Services in Hagerstown.

The Rev. Sandra L. Harshbarger, an Episcopalian priest, agrees. Spend time with the person, even if you are not dealing with the subject of the hurt, she advises.

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"Listening is the most precious gift you can give to someone who is hurting, says Harshbarger, a licensed professional and nationally certified counselor at Blue Ridge Counseling Services in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Don't avoid the painful topic, Robinson advises. It's important that you acknowledge what has happened to your friend. Recognition is the first step in the process of grief, she says.

You shouldn't give advice or try to fix the situation, Harshbarger says. If your friend is hurting because a relationship has ended, don't try to fix her up with a date, Robinson advises. Our culture always wants to fix everything, but the hurt won't go away with a quick fix, according to Robinson.

Encourage your friend to take care of himself, making sure to get enough sleep and to eat right, Harshbarger advises.

How about a hug?

Mark Victor Hansen highly recommends it - in fact, he teaches proper hugging technique in motivational workshops and seminars. Along with co-author Jack Canfield, Hansen originated the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books in 1993. Their idea has grown into 24 books that have sold 50 million copies - with more on the way. Their purpose is to share stories that open the heart and rekindle the spirit, according to their subtitle.

A hug can have similar effects. It can't be just a "tepee" hug - left cheek of the hugger to the right cheek of the hugee. Hansen believes in the healing power of a heart-to-heart hug. Sharing heart-to-heart energy can make both partners in the hug feel better, according to Hansen.

We've all heard the old chestnut: "Time heals all wounds."

Getting over a hurt - grieving - is a process, and it takes time. But not forever. If your friend isn't coping or feeling better after five or six weeks, encourage him or her to seek some professional counseling, Harshbarger advises.

-- The prince who believed he was a frog

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