“All you need is love.” 

The Beatles

You might imagine that I’d know just what to say to comfort a loved one in pain.  After all, I’m a physician who has dedicated the past 30 years to the alleviation of pain and suffering.

Still, when my son’s Evil Kneival-inspired bike stunt went awry and he injured himself,  my stomach did a flip with each of his moans.

I was much better trained to be a doctor than to be a mother.  I knew just what to do when I was the surgeon evaluating patients in the emergency room.  Years of formal medical education gave me clarity about how to begin the conversation with a person in pain, which way to direct the exchange and where I could look for the finish line.

As I sat in the emergency room waiting area with my son, I wished I had the same training to be at the side  of a family member in pain.   If I could only just kiss my son’s fractured collarbone and say, “There.  All better!”

What exactly does it mean to make things better for a loved one in pain?  How do you do it?  And further, how do you go to bed at night and say, “I did a good job today.”?

I went searching for answers.  First, I went to the bookstore, but I didn’t find a book.  Then I wondered what I could learn from my own experience with resilient families and skilled healers.

Here’s what I discovered: a caring human connection is powerful medicine.  When words and actions said, “You are not alone in your pain; I’m here and we’ll get through this  together,” magical things happened.

When I tried this approach with my own family, I saw a  vivid differences in the “before” and “after” pictures.

Before, pain was the yardstick by which I measured the success of my days.  I was a good doctor if I eliminated my patients’ pain.  I was a good mother if I protected my child from pain.

That meant I went to bed many nights thinking I fell short as a doctor, a mother, a daughter or a friend.

In the after picture I measure the success of my days by my ability to be fully present with a person in pain.  Connecting with someone in pain is the fastest, most strategic path to more joy, love and hope.

Connecting requires a different set of skills than curing.  Some say that you increase intimacy by releasing control.  It’s not easy, and I’ve made my share of mistakes.   In this book you’ll gather ideas about how to begin a conversation, how to direct the exchanges and keep sight of your destination.

Being with a loved one in pain is both hopelessly complicated and incredibly simple.  Really, all you need is love.