The ‘Ring Theory’ of Comfort

Illustration by Wes Bausmith for The Los Angeles Times
Illustration by Wes Bausmith for The Los Angeles Times


There are many situations in life that present a very specific conundrum: what do you say to someone who is suffering/sick/in financial trouble? I often struggle with what to say or do because I truly want to help, not cause further pain, and I know I’ve said the wrong thing before.

If you have ever struggled with what to say when a crisis befalls a friend or loved one, this op-ed from Susan Silk and Barry Goldman in the L.A. Times last spring explains the ‘Ring Theory’ of kvetching. I’ll let you read it if you’d like, but I felt it was a good reminder for me that the most important role I can play as a friend and caregiver is listener and supporter. It’s also okay to kvetch, normal even, but the kvetching should never be to the person in the center of the crisis.

She calls it the Ring Theory.

Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

All of you have been so incredible and supportive; you have absolutely followed the tenets of the ‘Ring Theory.’ Chris Klug, the snowboarder who had PSC, got a liver transplant and 18 months later won a bronze medal at the Winter Olympics, sent Derek and me an email recently and one thing he said keeps rattling around in my brain these days:

The waiting list process can be tough, but hang in there and stay strong. You’re not alone!

Waiting is horrible, but we know we’re not alone, and that makes this process so much easier. So thank you all for being there for Derek, for us. Your kind thoughts and well wishes are a constant source of comfort.

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