22 Jun 5 Tips For Supporting Your Loved Ones During Hard Times
To be present during instances of laughter and love often comes naturally. However, when circumstances are difficult or painful, it can be hard to know how to be there for the people we love the most. We may feel uncomfortable and want to avoid the situation all together. Therefore, if you want to know how to help those you love, you can follow these tips:
1. Refrain from using invalidating cliches like “At least -something- didn’t happen” or “it could be worse”.
- These statements effectively minimize the feelings of the person experiencing them; even if the original intention was one of support, the person you are attempting to comfort may end up feeling invalidated. Ask yourself if it could be your own intolerance to difficult emotions that prompts you to try to make things lighter. Keep in mind you do not have to give answers or solutions, just your genuine empathetic presence.
2. Avoid making the situation about you.
- Referencing ourselves and our experiences is a major way we connect with people and feed conversation. However, by comparing their hardships to a similar or not-so-similar experience, you are again invalidating their experience and quantifying it against your own. On top of that you are rupturing the communication, which can make the other person feel unheard.
3. Listen. Really listen.
- Make this person feel heard. Validated. Avoid distractions like checking your phone or watch. Give your undivided attention to your loved one as a form of showing they matter, that their words matter. You can even be respectfully curious by asking questions geared to clarify or understand the other person better.
4. Respect boundaries and limits of your loved one.
- Understand that they may not want to give you all the details and that is okay. They may not be ready to discuss the entirety of their experience and shouldn’t be pushed to do so. Do not make assumptions, avoid bombarding people with questions, and refrain from unsolicited advice. Just be open to be there when they are ready (if they are at one point) with an open heart, non-judgmental mind and attitude of not telling them what to do (unless requested).
5. Just be there.
- Even if it’s in silence. Even if you don’t talk about what they are going through, just showing you are present is impactful. Many times silence and what the person senses from our presence is more eloquent than a thousand words.