"Courageous care partners recharge with self-care, striving for peaceful pinnacles
in patience, persistence, and positive 
changes, knowing when to conquer and when to comfort."

The Compassionate Connection

Jan 31, 2021 by Eileen Adler

I have often pondered what the best response might be when a feeling, an experience,
a painful moment is shared with me.

According to David Rakel in his book, The Compassionate Connection: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening, he explains that the person doing the sharing is hurting and knowing that you will be there for them is really the essence of what they need; know that you “cannot change or fix people;” it might be best to be a compassionate and an empathetic listener and care partner. Mr. Rakel suggests the following tips that are helpful:

  1. just listen
  2. sit with your friend, give them a hug, hold their hand
  3. patience is paramount . . . we must honor their grief and sadness
  4. I used to tell my friend to keep me in her back pocket so she could access me whenever she needed me.

As much as we want to provide support, these are some things we should avoid:

  1. This is not about you so do not commiserate with a similar experience.
  2. “It could always be worse,” do not top their feelings with your experience.
  3. Do not shut down, closing access to you in their time of need. We all have challenges.
  4. We know that feelings are transient and fleeting but do not tell a grieving person to “get out of your head . . . it can’t be that bad!”  
  5. Do not exacerbate their worries by telling them that you are afraid for them.
  6. Remember, we cannot change a person’s world view, so it is best to listen. 


Rakel, David, PhD. The Compassionate Connection: The Healing Power of Empathy and Mindful Listening. 2018. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.  People who are hurting need support