We’ve all heard the saying, “everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
But what do you do when you DO know about the battle they’re fighting but simply can’t relate?
Should you find yourself in the position of not knowing how to support someone in your life suffering from something you don’t understand, here are eight tips I’ve learned in my journey through my support system. They helped me when I felt isolated and increased the depth of our connection, too:
Ask Them What They Need.
Tell them you want to be there for them, and ask them to tell you what rock-solid support looks like. They may not have an answer right away, and that’s OK. Give them the space to figure it out. Then, listen to what they say and follow through with what you can.
Really Get To Know Them.
Remember, each chapter of life introduces new nuances to their scenario. Don’t make assumptions that you know precisely what they deal with. Instead, ask them and invest in them with focused listening and empathy. Make this a regular and consistent part of your relationship.
There’s nothing worse than needing to confide in someone only to feel subtly judged for experiencing the highs and lows that come with healing. Anger, sadness, and even rage are totally healthy and reasonable emotions for someone entrenched in pain. Give your loved one permission to feel what they are going through without judgment.
Remember, honesty is always the best policy, and letting someone know that you are struggling to understand, empathize, and relate is fair—assuming you can conjure the courage and humility to communicate this! Don’t ghost a friend or turn a blind eye to their struggles simply because you don’t know how to show up. If you don’t know how to be with them as they reconcile their pain, tell them.
Take Care Without Caretaking.
Caretaking happens when we assume responsibility for someone else’s well-being, and it embodies hues of codependency. No matter how much you love someone, you don’t need to fight their battles for them. Instead, show love and care while trusting they have what it takes to rise in the face of their struggles.
Be A Grounded Optimist.
Encourage them to look on the bright side without denying the difficulties they face. Cliché phrases like “Everything happens for a reason” or “God only gives you what you can handle” can feel alienating. Seek to embody optimism while still acknowledging the pain may never go away. It’s OK to do both.
It’s so important to celebrate your successes and openly share your wins. However, be mindful and sensitive as you do. Don’t consistently call a friend struggling with infertility only to flip the FaceTime to showcase your happy, healthy children. If someone you know is suffering from chronic illness and their lifestyle choices are limited, communicate your own joys with sensitivity. This doesn’t mean withholding your happiness; rather, it means balancing it with empathy and enough awareness that not everyone has the same opportunities as you!
Simply Offer Love.
Never underestimate the power of warm and kind thoughts or the generosity of a loving presence. A heartfelt hug and the simple words “I love you” can go a very long way.
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