Helping Hands: What You Can Do To Support Someone During A Tough Time


It’s hard to know what to say. If someone you know is going through a tough time, you may very easily find yourself overthinking the matter or second-guessing yourself. Helping someone through a tough time is a part of life, and if your intentions are good, that’s the best place to start. If that person is grieving or has an addiction or is experiencing mental health issues, it cannot be underestimated the difficulties they are facing at this moment in time, so the best thing you can do is be there for them. Let’s break this down further.

Communicate
It’s always important to reach out to that person and acknowledge what they are going through. It might sound very simple, but this is the first step to reaching out to that person. You need to let them know that you care.
Listen
To be more specific, you should listen more than talk. The person going through a difficult time with their health or bereavement may want to just let out their feelings. The best thing you can do is listen actively, and if they are hinting that they want to discuss the darker parts of their struggle (and you are willing to hear it) then you can say something along the lines of “I can only assume that there are some parts of this that are really difficult, but you don't need to go through it alone.” Listening more, and speaking less will communicate so much more than your words, and if they get upset, you might too, but realize that you shouldn’t hold back. Your emotions will convey a lot more in this situation.
Choose
Choosing your words is key. If you spend more time listening rather than speaking, then those few words will mean a lot, so you have to make sure they are simple. Just think about what you would want to hear if you were in their shoes. And putting a positive spin on the situation may be well-intentioned, but it’s not going to have the desired effect. If you’re supporting someone who is grieving a death, it’s commonplace to say things like “in a better place” or things like “well, at least you can...” detracts from the weight of the loss. It’s much better to acknowledge the situation and pick your words carefully.
   
Help
When offering your help, you should really not take the “if there's anything I can do to help” approach because it places the initiative in the hands of that person. Instead, you should do what you can to find out what specific tasks need to be met by that person. Then do them. It’s very important to make sure that you don't force your help upon them. Offering it and doing it are two completely different things, and everyone deals with things differently. Going through a tough time on a personal level may mean that person wants to take stock or do something that is for them and them alone, and you forcing your help upon them may be taken the wrong way. If someone is going through a potential relapse of a substance issue, you may feel that you are taking the initiative by intervening, but while an intervention certainly helps before treatment is sought, that person may feel that having been through the treatment process that they’ve got to do this bit on their own. And whether this is carving out their own recovery steps again, or going to AA meetings or NA meetings, where there is the support of professionals who implicitly understand their internal struggles, you have to respect their wishes. You may not be able to help with this step because you’ve not been in that emotional place, but offering your help can be the necessary reassurance.
Check
For any recovery process, from grief to illness to addiction, people will bookend it when the “struggle” has finished, and there is a sense of closure on the situation. The long-term is as important as the short-term, and when someone is grieving, they are surrounded by support, but that support naturally dissipates. Make a point of checking in at regular intervals, and mark a date in your calendar one month, two months, and so on. If you're a friend, make a note of things like anniversaries or birthdays. The real support you provide to someone is not just being the first one on the scene, it’s about being the last one to leave too.
Continue
Yes, life goes on, but that doesn’t mean to draw a line under the issue or the loss. If somebody has lost a loved one, they should be encouraged to share memories. Just because someone or something has gone doesn’t mean it should be brushed away.  

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