Reacting to tragedies of others (NYT article)

The author of this article wonders why some close friends disappeared entirely when the author and her family were going through tough times. Here are a few excerpts:

“…[We’ve] come to understand the various ways in which people cope with crisis when it happens to them. But psychologists are just beginning to explore the ways we respond to other people’s traumas.” “…[In] the presence of another’s crisis, there’s always the sense of helplessness.”

“True empathy inspires what sociologists call instrumental aid. “There are any number of tasks to be done, and they’re as personal as your thumbprint,” Dr. Rainer said. If you really want to help a family in crisis, offer to do something specific: drive the carpool, weed the garden, bring a meal, do the laundry, go for a walk.

“The human condition is that traumatic events occur,” said David B. Adams, a psychologist in private practice in Atlanta. “The reality is that we are equipped to deal with them. The challenge that lies before us is quite often more important than the disappointment that surrounds us.”

Here’s a link to the full article: … 7essa.html
August 16, 2010
Coping With Crises Close to Someone Else’s Heart
By Harriet Brown
New York Times