Life can offer some pretty tough blows sometimes and it can be so hard to navigate the painful journey through. If any of you are like me, you really struggle with watching someone else in the midst of their crisis and easily become too involved in “fixing” their pain. There is really no easy way to watch a loved one endure the death of a family member, a serious illness, the devastating legal choices of a child, addiction, or divorce. These are all life changing situations that shake us to our very core and it can be even harder to know how to support a friend during such an event.
So how can we offer encouragement and strength to a loved one who is experiencing a life-changing trial, without taking on that crisis ourselves? True compassion doesn’t always mean saving a friend from heartache, but rather walking with them through it.
The most powerful thing we can do for a loved one in pain is to offer empathy. No matter who you are, it’s hard to reject the most connecting words – “me too”. “I’ve been there.” “I understand your pain.” Empathy doesn’t jump in to solve any problems but it does say “I’m here with you”. Empathy has the courage to cry with a friend who is hurting. Empathy is vulnerable enough to remember similar pain and use it to relate to a wounded friend.
Realize the gift
Look back over your life and remember a really grueling challenge you faced. Although it may have been excruciating at the time and although you may not have been able to see anything positive in the middle of it, can you see how it shifted your life in a way that you benefit from today? Now, imagine if someone had stolen that experience from you. While that may have been nice in the moment, it would have crippled you in the long run. It would have sabotaged an important growth opportunity. A butterfly that is helped out of its cocoon will die, despite the intense struggle it must endure to free itself. The struggle is a necessary gift.
Affirm their strength
When a loved one is falling to pieces, it can be so easy to offer to take on the challenge for them in whatever way we think we can. Although our intentions are pure and coming from a desire to help, our actions often tell our loved ones we don’t believe in their ability to face their own struggle. Instead of rushing in to save your dear one from pain, consider affirming their strength. Remind them “you got this”. “I believe in you.” “I just know you will be able to figure this out.” Sometimes a little belief from a friend is all we need to muster up enough strength to carry on and face our demons. It means a lot to give our loved ones the space and dignity to address their own troubles. There are so many messages out there claiming we are not enough and don’t have what it takes. Imagine the power your words have when you affirm “you are enough and you have everything it takes to face this”.
Jillian Landis is a Self-Care and Worthiness Coach at Evolve Personal Coaching, blogger, and writer for Nourish + Bloom. Jillian's passion is encouraging big hearted individuals to extend a little of their love to themselves, so they may serve this world at their greatest potential. Prior to coaching, Jillian served in the mental health profession for 10 years and has a vast knowledge of human behavior, which she utilizes to create effective change in the lives of her clients.