A few months ago I got to be reminded about something I had recommended to a client a long time ago- like 10 years ago. Sometimes as therapists we don't always know immediately which of our actions/suggestions will be especially meaningful.
I had worked with a woman for several years and she'd done fabulous work on herself. Her husband of many years was suddenly diagnosed with a very fast moving cancer. Her entire family was stunned. By the time he was diagnosed he was only thought to have a few weeks to live.
I haven't found that there's anything brilliant to say in times like these. It's just a hard, hard, painful part of life, the prospect of losing someone you love long before you thought it likely. She and I talked about things like preparing herself and her family for his death, about getting ready, about how she wanted to say goodbye, about the transition in the months afterward... all important things, but none of which could make the situation less painful or difficult.
Right after one of our meetings she was going off to see him in the hospital. By this time he was extremely weak and barely speaking anymore. She said, "what should I do?"
I told her I thought she should sit by his bed and put her hand on his leg (she chose where she wanted to put her hand- my suggestion was simply that she touch him) and "soak up" as much of his presence and energy as she could, and give to him through her touch as much of her presence and energy as she could. Sort of like squirrels storing up food for the winter- as if she would be accruing a "storehouse" of how it felt to be with him and touch him, so that when he wasn't physically with her anymore she'd be able to "call up" those feelings.
Her husband died several days later, and she and I worked together a couple more years. She did really, really well with the transition and was able to go on and thrive in a way that made her proud and would have made her husband proud.
She came back to see me for a "little tune up" a few months ago. One of the things she wanted to tell me was how important it had been for her to go to the hospital that day and just sit with her hand on her husband's leg. He couldn't say anything to her, but she felt his presence, and she felt certain he felt hers. She told me she still calls up those feelings and can still feel his leg in her hands.
That one suggestion turned out to be a gift in myriad ways- for example, it was a gift to my client for me to suggest it, a gift to her and to her husband to be able to have that special time together, a gift to their children to see the affection between their parents, a continuous gift to her over time to feel how his touch felt, and a gift to me that she came back to tell me how important it was to her.