We all go through tough stuff at some time or another and sometimes it seems more difficult to watch a loved one struggle than to actually experience the situation ourselves. Whether a family member/friend is facing a physical illness, mental health issues, trauma, tragedy, or a build-up of everyday stress, it can be a really helpless feeling to sit by and watch. It also can be tough to figure out how to help a loved one without taking on their issues. Here are a few things to think about to try and keep yourself safe and healthy while also being a great support to loved ones in need.
- Listen. While this sounds so simple, it can be really challenging. I would encourage you to sit and listen to whatever it is your loved one is dealing with. This isn’t about problem solving or having an answer, but about really hearing them share their vulnerabilities.
- Ask what they need. Sometimes we try to help others based on what we would like others to do for us. While these are beautiful intentions, we don’t all need the same support. If you ask what someone needs from you, you then can decide if you can provide that. Maybe it’s as simple as a hug, maybe a meal, or some advice. Asking how to help gives your energy some direction and you can follow through knowing that your actions are truly helpful.
- You don’t need to have a solution. There are many life events that don’t have an easy answer or solution and that is absolutely okay. Being a support to someone else doesn’t mean having the right answer. It simply means being there. If you don’t know what to say or how to handle a situation it is absolutely okay to say “I don’t know what to say, but know that I love you and am here.” It can be so powerful to let your loved one know that you are simply there for them.
- Don’t ignore the situation. Sometimes we don’t feel like we have the right words (see above), so we don’t say anything at all. Or we don’t want to upset the person, so we don’t ask. This can often feel awkward for both people. Let’s acknowledge what is; your loved one is going through a rough time, but let them decide how or if they want to talk about it.