One of the hardest things to do is to watch your loved ones struggling because of difficult circumstances. Chances are, you’d do anything to take the pain away from them, but you’re not sure how.
While you can’t change the events that are hurting them, you can adjust your own actions.
The best thing you can do is to be there for them as a constant means of support. You don’t have to say the perfect words or bring them a casserole. You just have to let them know you’re there for them no matter what.
Meanwhile, if you're feeling helpless, you can do a few things in the background as your loved one struggles. Use these tips to help those you care about during difficult times.
1. Watch How You Approach Them
You’ve likely heard the phrase “kid gloves” when it comes to dealing with someone in a heightened state of sensitivity. While you do need to be cautious of how you handle them, they aren’t a baby. A person who is struggling needs care, not coddling.
It is possible to talk to someone whose emotions are fragile and still have a productive conversation without babying them. Keep a level of respect and treat them with dignity, but let them be responsible for their daily lives.
Even if you think you know what’s best for them and they’re not listening, be cautious in how and when you approach them.
Ask yourself if the matter you are thinking of bringing up is time-sensitive or if it can wait. Then decide if it’s something that will be worth adding to their plate of stresses.
For instance, if they haven’t showered in a few days, another day or two might not matter. But if they haven’t eaten, it’s a discussion worth having.
2. Show Them You Care
Being there for them, even in the background, is essential. When someone is going through a hard time, they often have thoughts that they’re all alone in the struggle. This is what’s called a “thinking error” in psychology, but it’s still the truth in their perspective.
You can help them shift their way of thinking. Send them a text in the morning and randomly during the day. Keep doing this, and don’t expect a response back.
If you’d like to do a little more for them, go beyond the cliched casserole dish. Make them a care package, so they have a physical memento that someone thinks they’re worthy of love.
3. Listen to Hear, Not Respond
Most of us engage in conversations with half an ear. We’re on the sidelines of the football game, waiting for the signal that it’s our time to jump in.
While it sounds like we’re empathetic when we offer a comparable story of our own — it’s not always appreciated. Be mindful of your own actions and how you’re listening when your loved one opens up to you.
Are you attentive, or is your mind somewhere else? Are you making eye contact and turned toward the person speaking?
Your actions say a lot to the other person and can make them feel valued or ignored.
Another thing to remember is that not everyone wants a solution to their problems. Sometimes they just want to know someone cares enough to hear them complain.
Listen compassionately and then ask them: Do you want to vent, or do you want me to try to help you with this?
If they’re ready to work toward healing, help them come up with ideas. Otherwise, a hug and reassurance can be a little miracle to someone suffering.
4. Recommend Ways They Can Get Help
Not everyone has their own healthy coping strategies to get through a difficult time.
When it seems like the other person is ready for help but not sure how to move forward, ask them if they’d like suggestions. Work with them to create an action plan of developing coping strategies they’re okay with.
Some common ways psychologists suggest to deal with stress or sadness include:
● Keeping a journal to release feelings
● Letting it all out with a good cry
● Getting some exercise
● Getting out in the fresh air
● Talk therapy with a mental health counselor
● Talking it out with a loved one
If you notice that the person you care about is getting worse instead of better, let them know you’re concerned. You may need to recommend that they see their doctor or encourage them to get counseling.
5. Find Ways to Distract Them Together
Sometimes, a distraction from the stresses of reality is the best way to handle difficult times. There’s no one better to get distracted with than a person you care about.
It may take a few times for you to suggest an activity, but you can wear them down with consistency. Offer to watch a movie with them or take them shopping. If you know they enjoy a hobby — suggest doing it together.
It doesn’t matter what they’re doing as long as it takes their mind off of their worries. When you see them starting to show signs of sadness, try to distract them with in-the-moment activities.
Watching someone you love struggle with hard times is never easy. Whether they're dealing with a loss or facing challenging circumstances, you may feel helpless.
You may not be able to take away their pain, but you can lighten the burden just a little. Be there for them no matter how bad things get, make sure they know they’re loved, and use these tips to lift them up consistently.
Eventually, the pain will subside. And you may find your relationship will be stronger because you walked through the troubles together.
Janey Ha, Business Manager at Mariposa on 3rd, has over eight years of experience in property management with a strong background in hospitality and is a local to the Koreatown/DTLA market. Mariposa on 3rd is a stylishly designed boutique apartment community at the threshold of LA's budding metropolis, located within the hip neighborhood of Koreatown while just moments from DTLA.