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How to be there for someone

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

girl by window looking down

There are moments in life when nothing anyone could say would make us feel better. While we have all been there or will be there, it is easy to feel stuck when someone we care for is suffering yet we can’t ease their pain, no matter how much we want to.

We can all relate to times when we just need to be sad, or angry, anxious etc. And there's no amount of support, advice, or hugs in the world that could take away that pain.

It doesn't mean that the love and support we receive is not appreciated, but if someone we love has passed away, no one can bring them back. In some situations, only things that are impossible would help.

So, what could we do in a situation where someone is experiencing inconsolable suffering?

We know that we can't take away their pain, but we can support them. You can be supportive and make a difference in someone's life without solving their problems.

Here are 4 simple yet effective tips:

1. You don’t have to speak: Don’t underestimate the power of your presence. It can be enough to provide a safe space to let your loved one just be with their emotions, with the knowledge that you are there.

2. Words of compassion: Sometimes we can see light at the end of the tunnel even when our loved one can’t, and we want to show words of support and love without invalidating how they feel. Empathy is essential, even saying ‘I can see you are suffering so deeply right now and I’m here for you’ demonstrates that you acknowledge their pain.

two people holding hands

3. Ask over advice: Even with the best of intentions, giving advice about their situation when they are in the depths of despair can be absorbed as judgements or criticism. Framing advice as questions allows room for them to make their own choices e.g. ‘Have you thought of anything you could do today to be kind to yourself?’ Everyone is different, so you may want to ask what you could do to support them.

4. Take care of you. To be there for others we need to make sure we are nurturing our own wellbeing. Trying to be there for a loved one in their hardest times is not easy and can bring up our own difficult emotions. Make sure you seek the support you need.

We naturally want to rescue people we care about, but we need to recognise the power of simply being there.

#mentalhealth #bereavement #depression #anxiety #recovery #worry #life #therapy

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