I once did a workshop where we were instructed not to touch someone who started to cry unless they specifically asked us to do that. The facilitator explained that this is something we do to soothe ourselves and not the person who is upset. I have never been one to take on that role, so it was easy enough to comply.
Until today though, I don't think I understood why. I was upset. I am upset. I am working my way through that to the best of my abilities. Sometimes I may cry. That is no small thing for me to allow anyone to see. To be touched in that moment is the last thing I want or need. Often it makes me feel worse. Today was one of those.
When I think about why that might be, I realized there are a host of non-verbal things that come through that hug or arm caress, the key one being - Your grief is making me uncomfortable, please stop.
Suddenly that oh-so-long-ago workshop makes sense.
Emotion is deeply personal to each person. Only the person feeling it knows what they need. Only they can articulate what that looks like or doesn't. Unless otherwise stated, your role is to stand witness. That is all.