Wellbeing

7 Ways To Support A Loved One

Knowing how to support a friend or relative going through a difficult time can be tough – here’s how to do it the right way

Navigating a major life change, such as divorce or grief, can be incredibly hard to do alone, so it’s natural that you’ll want to lend support to your loved one while they’re going through it. However, it can be easy to accidentally say or do the wrong thing that can end up causing more harm than good, even if you have the best of intentions. So how can you help someone who needs you? We turned to Jo Howarth, mindfulness practitioner, advanced hypnotherapist and founder of The Happiness Club, to find out how we can show support in the best way possible.

1. If a friend is going through a divorce…

Even when it is wanted, divorce is a grieving process. Something that was once full of joy and love is passing. The best way to support someone through this process is to be there for them and without any form of judgement. It’s as simple as that. They are bound to experience a range of emotions, potentially within short time frames of each other, so to have a trusted outlet and sounding board will be invaluable. Remember, you are not their lawyer, so you may not need to give them advice as they will be getting plenty of that. What they will need most is a safe space, somewhere to come to release and relax. Allow them that space as much as you can.

2. If a partner loses a parent…

Support is the name of the game here. There are likely to be a lot of emotions involved in this situation. Don’t try and make them feel better, just let them know that you are there for them, however they’re feeling. If they are sad, let them cry. If they are nostalgic, join in with a smile. If they feel angry, allow them to express and release that healthily. If they feel lost, hug them. Knowing that you are there for them, whatever they feel, will give them an even keel from which to work through all of the emotions that they will undoubtedly experience. And don’t rush them – there is no set time frame for grieving, it can pop up again months and even years later.

3. If someone loses their job…

Could this be an opportunity for something new to unfold? It may be hard for them to see that to start with. Being made redundant was one of the hardest experiences of my life, but without it, I would never have ended up where I am, doing what I do now. Again, allow them to express and release the emotions they experience around the situation. That is an important part of the process. But then begin to talk to them about having an open road before them, one where they get to choose a completely new direction if they wish, or embrace a new way of doing what they already love.

4. If your child has failed their exams…

Remind them that growth always comes out of ‘negative’ situations. The most beautiful flowers grow out of mud. Allow them to experience their feelings of disappointment, anger or frustration. These are valid emotions – encourage them to process these so they can come out the other side. Don’t tell them that they shouldn’t feel these things, and don’t belittle them by saying platitudes like ‘everything will be OK, you’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you’. Instead, work on showing them how much good comes out of ‘bad’ situations. There is always a next step they can take, they simply need to find it, and you can help them do that.

5. If someone has depression or anxiety…

Encourage them to seek professional help and support them in doing that, however you can. Don’t take their mental health issues on your own shoulders, as that is likely to start affecting your own mental health. Allow them the space to talk to you about their struggles and to share their experiences, but then point them towards all the brilliant support services there are out there to assist with mental wellbeing. From private therapy to counselling, and complementary therapies to group classes in things like yoga and mindfulness, there are solutions out there to suit all personalities and budgets.

6. If someone has received a diagnosis…

Listen. Listen to them as they express their fear, sadness and possible anger. Don’t tell them stories of other people’s health successes, or how someone you know overcame whatever it is they’ve been diagnosed with. They won’t be ready to hear that to start with, so just listen to them. But don’t join them if they move to a dark place, be there for them. Then, gently encourage them to be open to whatever solutions present themselves, don’t discount anything. Encourage them to find the healing solution that works best for them, whatever that might be.

7. If someone has received a diagnosis…

Listen. Listen to them as they express their fear, sadness and possible anger. Don’t tell them stories of other people’s health successes, or how someone you know overcame whatever it is they’ve been diagnosed with. They won’t be ready to hear that to start with, so just listen to them. But don’t join them if they move to a dark place, be there for them. Then, gently encourage them to be open to whatever solutions present themselves, don’t discount anything. Encourage them to find the healing solution that works best for them, whatever that might be.

Health & Wellbeing