Supporting a partner, family member, friend, roommate, or any loved one while they’re going through a difficult period can sometimes feel like walking on eggshells – you want to be there for them but also are unsure how to help and fear saying the wrong thing.
If you find yourself in this category, here are 3 tips for supporting a struggling loved one. They apply across any difficult situation from someone grieving a death or loss or experiencing postpartum to depression to grappling with an eating disorder or a breakup.
- Sit In The Suck
When we see someone hurting our instinct is often to try to make them feel better. But forced positivity can feel suffocating, disingenuous and out of touch with the current situation. Not everything needs rose-colored googles applied to it immediately or phrases of “it gets better” “at least…..” “don’t worry you’ll be fine.” Pain exists, so let it.
This doesn’t mean you should wallow or encourage suffering but it involves acknowledging that hard/sad/difficult emotions exist and making space for them. Treat your loved ones’ struggle as valid, and offer to “sit in the suck” with them – when they want to talk about it, they will.
- How are you doing TODAY?
Often people ask “how are you doing?” or “how are you feeling?” to people that are struggling and this is actually a very overwhelming question. It’s typically difficult to answer this question truthfully and seems like a conversation filler or something said in politeness. A much kinder, more intentional question is “how are you doing/feeling TODAY?” It recognises that our feelings change day to day and allows the recipient to reflect just on the current moment rather than on the entirety of their difficult experience.
- Simple Acts of Kindness
In trying to be helpful we often ask “how can I help?” only to be met with “I’m fine!” from someone who is clearly not fine. Asking people what they need is generally good practice, but with someone struggling they might not know or have the energy to tell you what they need. It can feel like another burden trying to make those around you feel helpful and productive.
A good remedy for this is just doing simple acts of kindness that most people would appreciate, and are best done if they’re not asked for! If you live together, fold their laundry or wash up their dishes, drop off a home-cooked meal or flowers, send them a book you think they may like, make them a playlist, mail them a letter, etc.. People can’t articulate what they need but they know when something makes them feel good.Your simple act of kindness could be a brief light in their darkness.
Often, people are terrified of saying the wrong thing so they say nothing at all. Your silence is more painful than your imperfect attempts at support. You won’t get it right every time. But keep showing up. That’s what matters.
To learn more about how to support your loved ones and yourself, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.
By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC