The Art of Comforting: What to Say and Do for People in Distress by Val Walker

Do you ever hesitate to say something to someone who has just lost a loved one or experienced some other tragedy for fear of saying the wrong thing?  Is the thought of spending time with someone who is grieving or even just crying anxiety provoking? If so, The Art of Comforting may be the book for you.  In our fast-paced world, comforting has become a lost art.  With each step we take away from face-to-face communication in favor of texting and emoticons, we grow increasingly unfamiliar and unskilled with expressing real compassion and warmth to others who are experiencing distress.

With The Art of Comforting, Val Walker has written “the book she needed but could not find.”  Ms. Walker contrasts the “quick-fix” ways of mainstream culture while clearly delineating the characteristic of being “comforting.”  She expands on many of these characteristic, including: being present & listening, empathetic, respectful, calm, hopeful, validating, and others.  Throughout the book, she shares the wisdom she’s gleaned from interviewing some “comforting professionals.”  Ms. Walker provides useful lists of “do’s & don’ts” as well as “less helpful & more helpful” statements.  The book concludes with lists of comforting things: books, movies, and music. However the items included here are not entirely intuitive. Did she really need to include music by The Pussycat Dolls and the movie Mad Max? Despite being somewhat disorganized and rambling at times, this is a good review of a much needed subject. (expected release date: 10/28/10)