I can tell you what has worked for me in 40 years of pediatric nursing: make eye contact; listen carefully; do not interrupt; do not give advice; validate their feelings; put yourself in their shoes; touch, whenever possible - holding a hand, putting your hand on their arm, their shoulder - is a powerful way to connect, be fully present, and validate their words and emotions. Hug and hold, if appropriate. Encourage tears and do not fight your own; offer a tissue and a cup of coffee; offer to find a private place - outdoors is very helpful if possible - to talk; hold all calls and messages and give your undivided attention; pray with them, if requested, or suggest it if you know that they are a person of faith and this is a known comfort to them. After this, when they have finished and “let it all out”, give positive affirmations - let them know they were right to open up to you, that they show strength, whatever you can genuinely see that is positive and good and may be a strength in healing; then sit by them while they make that call for the more expert help that you cannot provide - in my case a support group for bereaved parents, or people who are struggling with their same issues - I often walk with a parent to the social services department, the chaplain, whatever is needed. I help them take the next step. If I cannot at that time hand them over to the proper person, I tell them I will phone them later, and I do, as well as give them my phone number.
Read This Next