The news that a relative or friend is going through a difficult time is saddening to all involved. Perhaps they have just received news of an illness or someone close to them has passed away. Being in the position to comfort a person through a crisis is a wonderful way to express your love and support.
Before you begin to offer help you may want to consider how best to approach the situation. Here are some ways you can help when someone you care about needs support.
Be available to listen
Don’t worry too much that you won’t know exactly what to say – often a person just needs somebody to listen. If you have experienced a similar crisis, it can be a nice way for the two of you to relate, but do remember that their situation will be different from yours. And don’t keep interrupting with your story.
Be there to offer support, encouragement and respect. You might also be called on to help make decisions or clarify confusing information. Be gentle and avoid pushing the person into making a decision. If they seem confused, offer them simple choices them – even, “would you like to leave now or later?” is helpful.
Allow the person to talk about anything – not just their situation. Respect that sometimes the person may not want to talk and would instead prefer time to themselves. It’s important to give them this space, especially if you want to be someone they see as caring and trustworthy.
Perhaps the person will want to forget their troubles altogether and would welcome the opportunity to go out and have fun, socialise or see a movie.
Let the person know you care
Your relative or friend may find it difficult to ask for help, so keep in mind that you might have to be the one to initiate contact. Stay in touch with the person (without being overbearing) through calls, emails, letters and texts, making sure that when you call or drop around it is convenient for them.
When offering help, it is better if you can anticipate the person’s needs and offer practical help, rather than vaguely asking if there’s anything they need. Be observant and see what needs to be done around the house; especially focus on children if there are any. Putting on a load of washing or bringing over an unexpected, nutritious homemade dinner will probably be very gratefully accepted.
Be there for the person’s family
When someone is experiencing a hard time their family also suffers. Ask the person’s partner, children and parents how they are feeling and listen to their responses – sometimes the emotions of the people directly connected to the person who is suffering become overshadowed. Be the one who listens.
Take care of yourself too
It can become emotionally and physically draining to be strong for someone else. Your own wellbeing is just as important as the person’s you are supporting, so remember to look after your own mental and physical health. Try to take breaks in which you breathe mindfully, and spend time doing things that make you happy. You may even consider seeking support yourself.
Do you have any suggestions for how to support loved ones through a tough time? Why not share them with our members?