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How to offer support in a difficult situation

Let’s talk facts. I am not a therapist, a counselor, or a doctor. I am a friend and a person who has walked through and alongside others who have been in difficult life situations. As it turns out, I am going through a challenging time now with the sudden loss of a lifelong friend.

 

I wrote the suggestions you’ll find below, a couple of weeks ago when my friend was told she had cancer. The words were more for me than anything, but I think they might help others.

 

Please remember to hug the people you love.


Be well,

Sandy

 

How to offer support in a difficult situation


Join the person where they are emotionally.

Be the follower, not the leader.

 

Keep your opinions to yourself.

If you are directly asked for your opinion, offer it as an option, not as the solution. Major decisions are up to the person. Your job is to 100% support their choices. Don’t waffle or appear indifferent. Don’t grumble or act shocked at their answers or decisions. They don’t need to doubt themselves. Take away all judgment and become an encourager.

 

Don’t think for them.

Providing a list of things they should do or shouldn’t do is overwhelming. They will work through the situation and issues at their own pace. Walk beside or behind, but don’t try and set the agenda.

 

Say things like:

I’m here if you need me.

I’ll do anything you need. (Then do whatever is asked without a bad attitude or hesitation).

I’m thinking of you.

I’m proud of you.

I love you.

 

Don’t ask a bunch of questions.

Consider not asking ANY questions other than, Would you like to talk? Can I get you anything? Questions that begin with, Have you…?, Did you…?, Are you…?, When will you…? Why don’t you…? should be banned during this time.

 

Handle the inconsequential things.

Don’t ask them to decide on every little thing. For example: Do you want me to put your mail in your office or kitchen table? Instead, pick a place to put the mail and tell them, I put your mail on the kitchen table. Or You received a package and I put it on your counter. Don’t burden them with decision-making that takes up their mental space.

 

I know you may be hurting too, but…

Understandably, you may also be dealing with personal emotions – fear, anger, sadness, frustration. That’s okay. BUT your friend, the one who’s going through the difficult situation, does not need to see the fullness of your grief and your emotion. Believe me when I say that they cannot carry your sadness or concerns along with their own. You must find places and people to vent your emotions to OTHER THAN the friend you are walking alongside. They don’t need to know what your current struggles are. They need to know you are fine, that you will be fine, and that you are there for them.

 

Bottom line:

Stop talking, listen, agree, do something if asked, hug, repeat.

 




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