“Doctor, deciding to help someone without the tools is like trying to help someone who is drowning without being a lifeguard. If it’s okay with you, just take a punch, if it’s bad, you’ll drown too! “
Letizia Giorgini, psychologist, reflects with us on the meaning of help, and on the importance of its quality
It is a phrase that a patient told me a few months ago, it expresses the concept so well that it could be extended to all situations, but when it comes to mourning, it fits perfectly.
Because mourning is part of life, it affects everyone and we all feel a little lifeguard.
And mourners, especially if the loss concerns a child, if for some they are to be avoided like the plague, for others they are in the top ten of the needy, real poor people who have lost the meaning of life and who have need someone to show them the right way.
In my experience, fortunately I have never met poor parents, but many suffering people, and none of them felt better when they were treated like a poor child, nor did they appreciate the help of those who wanted to make a name on their skin or feel like a good person at their expense.
Most of the time it happens that when you act on the emotional wave of “giving a hand to the poor”, you say random things dictated by common sense, by your own experience or worse by the embarrassment of not knowing how to remain silent.
And so, very often, I happen to have to pick up the pieces of bereaved parents who are told phrases, which if in other situations they could be tolerated, when you have just lost a child, they can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
And it turns out that those armed with common sense do worse than those who have the courage to keep quiet.
Even if we have all been through mourning sooner or later and we believe we have infallible tools (so much so that we are still here to tell it), the problem is that our methods, the tools we used, our pain was ours. and it is hardly perfectly adaptable to someone else’s life.
The risks of offering help in person to those who are suffering a lot, without being prepared to bear the consequences, are many and concern not only those we would like to help, but also well-meaning helpers.
By coming into contact with the pain of others, our own pain inevitably awakens and it could become very complicated and dangerous to try to manage your pain while someone else we have promised help and support is leaning on us.
To return to the opening sentence, the risk of drowning is really high and perhaps it would be worth asking ourselves the reasons that lead us to make the choice to throw ourselves into the water.
Is the drowning person someone else or is it me? Who do I want to save by throwing myself into the waves of the stormy sea? If chance helps me save the life of the drowning person, will anything change in my life and in the way I feel pain too?
And maybe it would not be more useful for both of us if instead of throwing myself in the water to risk my life and that of another person, I signaled to the lifeguard?