Yesterday morning I sat in my office and looked into the eyes of a man who had lost his son to suicide. That was not the way my morning was supposed to have gone but then again, that is not the way this man’s week was to have gone. The start of his summer was going to be the start of incredible loss and despair for him and his family.

His pain, his questions, his tears flowed and I hoped I was giving him something to hold on to, in this moment, on this small stepping stone in a tsunami of feelings. Listening to him, giving witness to his pain was all I could do. Stilling my internal reactions allowed me to listen and bear witness to his pain.

In my years of being a therapist, there have been moments where I have looked in the eyes of clients who are in pain, grief, torment and loss. I have been asked, “How do you listen and not react?”

The answer is that my clients’ pain is theirs, not for me to share or take away. Sometimes all it takes is listening, with an open heart. Words will come later.

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