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13 Lessons About Comforting Others From A Cop

Sometimes you listen to someone speak, and your reaction is, "Yes. Yes. Yes!" and "So good to know I'm not the only one talking about this!" This is one of those times for me.

Jeremy Brewer is a cop. One of his jobs is to notify people that a loved one is dead. His 7-minute TED Talk is full of lessons. The lessons center around death, but they can be universally applied to any of life's hiccups.

The most powerful and healing moments I had after Art died were with the people who sat in the sticky, dark muck of death with me. They didn't talk; they didn't try to comfort my loss away. They sat with me, with their hearts hurting, in silence. It is at the very core of why I do what I do. I want every person to have the experience of being seen in moments of a personal hell. It is life-changing.

Here are 13 lessons from the Ted Talk titled A Strategy for Supporting and Listening to Others.


2:45 "Being confronted with death can be difficult for everyone."

Lesson: Listening hurts. It’s painful. It is difficult.


3:07: "In the civilian world, you are often driven by that instinct to fix it. Usually done with well-intended comments or physical touch."

Lesson: That is the reason that so many people often say the wrong thing.).


3:24: "Had I slowed down and just taken a breath, I would have been better able to connect to the humanity of that moment."

Lesson: Connecting to your humanity and that of your friend will help you avoid mechanically saying things that are not helpful and don’t inspire your friend.


3:47 "Our hearts may have been in the right place, but we made it about us."

Lesson: Even when we want to offer comfort, we need to make sure that our actions are what the other person needs, not just what WE think they need.


4:13 "I knew that I needed to resist that urge to move in and to comfort her."

Lesson: Moving in to quickly to comfort a person in pain doesn’t allow them to sit in their pain.


4:21 “Honestly, it’s excruciating. In your mind and in your heart, you just want to hug this person.”

Lesson: It’s hard to resist an urge to comfort someone!


4:35 “Not everyone is comfortable with human touch.”

Lesson: Believing that what I think I would want is the same thing my friend wants is not a good idea. Witnessing someone’s pain is more important than trying to comfort them out of their pain.


4:40: “Who knows what they are thinking and feeling in those moments.”

Lesson: If I have not been in their situation, I cannot know what it is like.


5:09 “So I sat across from Monica, silent, eye level, just feeling that moment. My heart was pounding so hard so I could hear it.”

Lesson: Being present when someone else is in pain is emotionally AND physically hard!


5:35 “In human moments, people want a human.”

Lesson: Sitting with someone in their pain is the greatest gift you can give.


5:55 “One of the most important parts of respecting space is not always having to have an answer.”

Lesson: You don’t need to fix it.


6:08 “She wanted me to connect to the depth of that experience she was going through.”

Lesson: Be a human being, not a human doing.


6:36 “There is never a bad time to build a connection.”

Lesson: I can’t say it any better!

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