for when a loved one is in pain

Hello my dear,

I am so sorry that someone you love is going through a difficult time. We’ve made this resource page with you in mind. I hope that these videos, podcast episodes, and blessings will help you walk alongside your loved one and to help make these hard moments soft.

Bless you,

a blessing when you realize everyone is struggling

From pg 80 of The Lives
We Actually Have

Blessed are you who have realized
that life is hard.
And it’s hard for everyone.
Your awareness came at a cost.
You lost something you can’t get back.
You were diagnosed with chronic pain or degenerative disease.
Your family fell apart and things have never been the same.

Blessed are you who gave up the myth
that the good life is one of happiness, success, perfection.
The life that looks beautiful on Instagram,
—but isn’t real.
You who realize it is okay to not be okay.
To not have a shiny life because no one does.

Blessed are you who see things clearly,
where struggle is everyone’s normal.
You walk among the fellowship of the afflicted,
a club no one wants to join.
And while this life isn’t shiny,
it does come with superpowers.
Superpowers of ever-widening empathy
and existential courage that gets you back up after another fall
and a deepened awe at the beauty and love that can be found amid life’s rubble.
Like flowers that grow from the cracks in the sidewalk.
These virtues blossom in you.
And thank God for you.

Blessed are all of us who struggle,
for we are in good company,
and we’ll never walk alone.

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“You can’t effect change, but you can witness it. You can’t change the outcome, but you can sit with someone while they’re going on their journey and just say, I see you and I’m here with you. And I know you’re suffering and if you’re suffering because you’ve had another horrible botched surgery or you’re suffering because school boys chase you down the street in Glasgow barking at you like a dog at two o’clock in the morning or you’re suffering because you’re shooting up and you’re alone. I just want to be there. I can’t change it, and I can’t stop it. But I can be there. That’s it.”

—From Kate’s conversation with Ann Patchett (on loving her friend, Lucy, who died of addiction)


3 Responses to Pain (And Why They Aren’t Very Helpful) 

What does the suffering person really want? How can you navigate the waters left churning in the wake of tragedy? I find that the people least likely to know the answer to these questions can be lumped into three categories: minimizers, teachers and solvers.


What to say and what not to say

There’s not enough language for being right alongside pain. For what to say and not to say (trust me, I’ve said them all too.) But maybe we need to speak less and just be present, regardless of whether we have the right words. 


Here is Kate’s interview with The Atlantic on How to Speak to Someone Who’s Suffering:

  • Each person’s pain is uniquely their own. Don’t bring up your aunt with cancer or your friend who also went through a bad, but unrelated, situation.
  • Don’t google someone’s symptoms or suggest a bunch of solutions unless the person actively seeks your help. 
  • Please don’t imply that someone’s suffering is at all part of God’s master plan or a direct result of a choice that person made. The cruelty of life can be random. Often, it’s just bad luck.


The Lives We Actually Have

100 Blessings for Imperfect Days

Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie, authors of the instant New York Times bestseller Good Enough, reveal how every day is worth blessing—even Tuesdays. In a world that demands relentless perfection, Bowler and Richie offer creative, faith-based blessings that center gratitude and hope without making light of our real, messy lives. Formatted like a prayer book, The Lives We Actually Have is an oasis and a landing spot for weary souls, with blessings that center on various moods, including Bless This Ordinary Day, Bless This Lovely Day, Bless This Mournful Day, and more. These heartfelt blessings are a sanctuary for the grieving, the hopeful, the restless, the careworn, and anyone who needs a chance to exhale in a chaotic world.


Emily McDowell:
There’s No Good Card for That

For when knowing what to say is hard


Anne Lamott:
Loved and Chosen

For when you need reminded of who (and whose) you are


Liz Tichenor
Being Church on our Worst Days

For when you need to be reminded of the support of the community


Anna Sale:
Hard Topics, Softer Conversations

For when you need help responding to someone’s hard news


If you are willing to be human with someone who has been diagnosed, consider this:

1. Are you someone who feels discomfort when you can’t fix a situation? How can you practice being a better listener? Try reflecting on what they are saying, stilling that urge to solve. Can you offer a hug instead of words?

2. In Kate’s conversation with theologian John Swinton, they talk about the fact that people walk at 3 miles per hour. Which means Jesus walked at 3 miles per hour. How can you slow down the pace of your love this week to match that of your friend who is hurting?

3. Sometimes it is hard to know how to help or what to do. But so often, our friends who are in pain have very limited capacity to express what they need. Instead of saying, “How are you doing?” Ask, “How bad is your pain today?” This acknowledges that you already know that they are hurting and doesn’t require any sugarcoating. Instead of saying: “Let me know if you need anything.” Offer something specific: “I can drop off a meal, how’s Thursday?” Or “I can drive you on Tuesday and Thursday to your appointment.” or “I can take your kids to the park.” Then be sure to follow through.