Ask One Simple Question

Two people hugging, comforting one another

In an article earlier this year published in the Well Section of the New York Times, author Jancee Dunn focuses on the challenge of knowing what to do when you know someone you love is upset. What can you say that will allow the person to know you care but gives them the ability to control the discussion in a way that is most comfortable for them?

Dunn mentioned a conversation she had with a schoolteacher who gave her this advice. The teacher said when she sees her students upset she asks them a simple question: “Do you want to be helped, heard or hugged.”

That resonated with me and I believe this same simple question can be applied to someone who is grieving. It is always such a delicate balance when someone is going through the grieving process. How can you let them know you are there; you care and want to ease their suffering? Are you bringing up the issue when they are finally having a moment of peace? Are you asking questions they aren’t ready to answer? Do they not want to hear the condolences you are offering as they are just simply too overwhelmed?

There are so many questions that can run through your mind as to how best to communicate during this time. This very simple, straightforward question gives the person you love the chance to easily convey what will be of the most comfort at this moment in time.

This season filled with joy for many, can be distorted by grief for others. We all want to be there for those we love who are just getting through each day. Try this suggestion and ask, “Do you want to be helped, heard or hugged?” Your loved one will know that you are there for them, no matter what they might need.

Credited: “When Someone You Love Is Upset, Ask This One Question”, by Jancee Dunn, New York Times, Well Section, April 7, 2023