It is less about doing and more about being.
By Sigourney Humus
The apocalypse is here.
When someone goes through a hard time, it might be best described as their own personal apocalypse. For that person, the world has ended in some shape or form. That is just the way it feels when life gets really hard.
Worlds end in different ways. The end may come as a medical diagnosis or the loss of a loved one. It may be chronic depression that surfaces from time to time. It may be a painful end of a close relationship or it may be the loss of a job.
So whether it feels like they are spending each day fighting off zombies or hiding out in a bunker somewhere, what they’re going through is real and personal and it is up to their friends to support them.
I’m not here to judge what qualifies as a world-ending event, but know that when you go through it, it is absolutely real and devastating. It’s not our job to quantify or qualify the issue, it is our job to support in the best way possible.
But before you jump in and try to save them, here are a few thoughts from someone who’s world has ended before.
The right kind of support.
This doesn’t mean you have to do something, it just means that you’re nearby so when you are needed you are ready. They may need someone to talk to or they may need your reassurance in whatever it is that’s going on. They may have no idea what they need, but it will reassure them to know you are available.
Do the little things.
When your world is over do you often forget about the little things. The things that you normally have to do on a daily basis just to be a functioning person. Those are the little things that you can do to help. Sometimes that means getting the mail, making them lunch, feeding the dog, or taking out their trash. Sometimes it is just to hard to think about those things.
Stop offering life advice.
You don’t need to fix their problem. Most often you can’t fix it. Just be there to listen, don’t offer advice. Don’t tell them what to do. They are probably not ready to hear what you have to say, even if you are right.
Check in without any other motive.
Stop by, give them a call, send a text. Do it without anything planned other than checking on them. It gets dark when life is hard. You get lonely. Just call to say hi. It reminds them they are not alone.
Don’t be offended.
They may not call or text back. Sometimes the phone is just too hard to pick up. When my family went through our apocalypse my wife had 18000 unread emails and 113 unread text messages. She didn’t have the energy to even open them let alone respond. And that’s okay. Sometimes there are more important things than an empty inbox. Just remember that it is not personal towards you.
Let them do the talking.
This is a little repetitive, but just shut up and listen. Don’t try and figure them out. Don’t have the answers that you think will help, just listen. Shut up and listen. Use nonverbal language to show them how you feel and that you are engaged. If you are not sure how to do that click here. Empathy is more than words.
Be careful with polarizing words.
Don’t say, “everything is going to be okay”. You don’t know that and it sounds like something people say when they don’t understand. Don’t say things like, “take it one step at a time”. That can still feel like too much sometimes.
Don’t offer thoughts and prayers, if that is all you are going to do. Some people love to know that people are praying or thinking of them, but if that is all you do, then it feels like a way to avoid being present it the problem.
Ask before you do something.
Don’t share what they tell you without permission. Hardship is often confidential and that is a personal decision. Support them in that.
Talk before you email, text blast or Facebook message the world with a call for support. They may have reasons for not wanting it. Most will welcome the support but others may be pushed into a deeper hole by your support. It’s not you, it’s definitely the situation.
Don’t hide the good things in your life.
Don’t hide the good you have, just because they have it bad. It doesn’t help to pretend your life sucks. In fact, it can be nice sometimes to know that the world is still spinning elsewhere. It can help to know that some people don’t have to wade through the crap to survive.
Sit in the mess with them.
Sometimes there is no way to fix anything and so the goal should be to be on the journey with them and not try to force anything to be solved. Just be there so that they don’t feel alone.
This is by no means a complete collection of how to support someone who is going through a hard time. But it will get you started. Thanks for being the friend that is looking for a way to help. Listen to these words and know that even if your friend cannot express it your willingness is exactly what they need.
So, from someone who has had their world end, thank you.
Originally published by Sigourney Humus on Medium.com.