When someone you love is suffering it can be difficult to know just what to do to help them. We all want our loved ones to feel happy and healthy. While you may not be able to relieve the symptoms of something like depression or addiction, you can do some things to help your family member or close friend feel a little more comfortable as they work through their challenges.
Allow them to Hurt
Sometimes people really need permission to feel the way they feel. Let your loved one know that they are allowed to feel angry, unhappy, or whatever way they are feeling in the moment. Don’t try to cheer them up or change their mood. Being okay with negative emotions generally makes those emotions less painful.
Give them Options
If a person you love seems lost or overwhelmed, you can help by offering suggestions for their next step. Sometimes, this might mean sitting down with a professional. Therapists keep records on everything and are able to help manage prescriptions, therapeutic help and other techniques that may help your loved one. Someone who is in the middle of a crisis might not realize that they have options to help them change their situation. Don’t push them to choose one option over another, just remind them that when they are ready to move toward a certain option you will be ready to support them in their choices.
One of the most powerful things you can offer to someone who is suffering is simply being available. Let them know that they can call or text or even visit any time they need a person to talk to. When you are talking with them, be fully engaged and focused with them. Don’t allow outside distractions to pull you away from the conversation. Even if you are just sitting together quietly, be available to talk any time your loved one is ready. Sometimes just knowing you are really listening can make someone feel less alone in the world.
Celebrate Every Victory
Mark each victory, no matter how small it may seem, with some sort of celebration. The celebration doesn’t have to be excessive, it just has to be enough to show that you noticed the victory. Do a happy dance. Give them a card. Sing them a song. Do something out of the ordinary that indicates to your loved one that you know they are working toward becoming healthy and you are excited to see their improvements. You might even consider setting specific goals and offering bigger rewards when those goals are met. Concentrating on positives rather than negatives can be extremely effective.