Having a close relationship with someone who is going through a tough time can be difficult. You may struggle with not knowing what to say, feeling like you’re walking on eggshells, and/ or feeling concerned about their well-being. Here are a few ways that you can support someone during this time:
Best Thing You Can Do: Listen – Most of the time, people don’t want to be fixed. They want to be heard. Here are a few tips to put this into practice:
Be curious about what they’re saying. Avoid trying to relate or find a solution and aim to develop a deeper understanding of what they’re going through.
Validate them. You don’t have to agree with what they're saying to validate them. To validate is simply to express, “your suffering is real”. This allows your loved one to feel seen, which can be an immediate relief to their situation.
Avoid expressing negative reactions. For them to feel comfortable opening up to you, it’s important to create a safe space by remaining non-judgmental. This can be an especially tough one, as hearing your loved one discussing the dark place that they’re in can be scary. Trust that accepting them as they are right now is the most helpful response you can have.
Educate Yourself – It can be helpful to do some research on the experience that they’re going through. Even if you’ve gone through the same experience yourself, remember that everyone’s experience is unique. It’s best to maintain an open, researched-backed perspective.
Help in Ways You Can – When times are tough, day-to-day maintenance tasks tend to be put on the back burner. Lending your loved one an extra hand can take some of the weight off their shoulders. This can be done through financial support, making them a meal, giving them a ride, or assisting with anything that they may be falling behind on. Keep in mind that your caring presence may be all they need.
Know Your Limits – As cold as it may feel to have boundaries with a loved one who is suffering, it’s important for you both. Be honest with yourself about how much you’re willing to do. Doing too much for them may lead to resentment and/or co-dependency, which is more harmful in the long run. You also can’t force someone to get professional help, even if they need it; it has to be their choice. It’s not your responsibility to live life for them.
Strive to maintain ongoing communication and regular check-ins with your loved one so that they continue to feel your presence and care. The fact that you’re reading this just shows how blessed they are to have you in their life. Have patience and hope.