Thursday, July 07, 2016

Do's and Don'ts to help a hurting loved one

Your dear friend or family member is hurting deeply, battered, bruised, life turned upside down.
What can you say or do? It feels awkward and uncomfortable.
You want to help but you're at a loss.

I asked a few people who have been through some tough times.

Here are a few collective thoughts.

- Tell your loved one to get over it. Don't tell them something like "it's for the best." Now is not the time for tough love.

- Say something like "God works in mysterious ways" along with a sing-songy voice. Yes, He does. But at this moment in their life, that's not helpful.

- Offer advice, unless they specifically ask you for it.

- Let judgment creep in. You may have opinions about them, their behavior, their choices, but now is the time to keep those things quiet. Your loved one needs LOVE, not woulda shoulda coulda's.

- Act awkward. They already feel it. You do too. Don't enhance the awkwardness. Also, don't go silent or avoid them.

- Minimize their situation. Their pain is very real and should be treated that way.

- Say "Let me know if you need anything." This is a tough one because that's our true thought. But the friend who's hurting is not likely to take you up on that offer.

- Send them random notes, text, or FB messages letting them know you're thinking of them.

- Offer food. Everyone has to eat. Rather than saying "let me know if you need anything" say, "I'd like to have food delivered to you one night this week. Which night would work best?" That is more helpful than leaving the ball in their court. Be specific without being forceful.

- Listen if they want to talk. Be strong if they want to cry. Laugh if they want to laugh. They may want to talk about their situation or they may want a mental break from it. Be alert and aware of what they need.

- Treat them as normal! If you're usually chatty with your loved one, be chatty with them! If you're usually sappy with them, be sappy with them. If your thing is to send each other inappropriate memes, send inappropriate memes! If you usually go on walks together, keep going for walks together.

The hard time in their life doesn't make them an alien. The hard time in their life isn't contagious to you.
What they need is a solid foundation. Someone stable and secure who will make them feel as normal as possible in this volatile time in their life.
They need a soft place to land.

And it can be you.

Do you have other thoughts or ideas? I'd love to hear them!


Vicki said...

Thank you for this! It was very timely since I have a friend who is facing chemo and has a tough road ahead. So far I thankfully have not done any of the "Don'ts" but I needed some help with the "Dos." Great ideas.

Vicki said...

And that is one beautiful photograph!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the contagious statement. Many, including close friends and family members, felt my divorce was very much contagious. If it was, would they not have caught my disease at any time over the past 11 years? Divorce is not a communicable disease.