It’s difficult to watch someone you care about suffer. When you’re an empathic person, it’s even more painful. You want to help but don’t always know how. Here are some ideas for the next time you want to cheer up a friend. You can think of them as falling into four categories of care: empathy, sympathy, compassion and connection.
...is an important first step because it allows you to share space with your friend. You don’t have to know how to fix the problem. You don’t even need to be able to speak on it. You just need to be there.
Holding space for someone in pain is one of the most sacred offerings you can give. Being able to be there with someone and silently stand (or sit) by their side shows your friend they are not alone. It gives an unmatched feeling of support.
Once you’re there, just listen. You don’t need to fix at this stage. Create a vessel of space for your friend to share (or not, depending on what they need). It’s important to let them know you are there with a listening ear. But you don’t have to push them to speak. Allow them to open up when they’re ready.
...gives you the space to respond to what your friend’s going through. When you respond, remember to consider what they need. Everyone is different, and just like there are different love languages; there are also different ways of showing care.
First, affirm their feelings. Whatever they are going through, their feelings are valid. Be there and be understanding.
It’s okay to ask someone, “What do you need from me right now?” Let them tell you what they need. Maybe it’s a shoulder to cry on, maybe someone to make him or her laugh or provide a distraction, maybe it’s helpful feedback, or maybe it’s a hug. Either way, asking them allows the person in pain to feel more in control, as well as heard, valued and acknowledged.
allows follow-up questions to occur. What can you personally do to cheer them up? Use the ways you know them to do special things to make them happy and/or lighten their load.
Ask yourself, is there is a physical way you can help?
Relieving someone’s burden goes a long way to freeing up his or her mental space. So if you can offer physical assistance with a problem, do.
Maybe you can help in other ways as well. Are they feeling physically ill, send them a care package filled with healing treats and remedies like healthy food and supplements. Or if the distress is emotional, get them something comforting and supporting like stress relieving or energizing aromatherapy. That can be doubly effective in lifting their spirits; first by getting them something helpful perhaps that they didn’t even know about and secondly by letting them know you are deeply there for them and not just spouting words.
...is the final care category for a reason. It encompasses all the other categories but also stands alone. When you connect, do it from a place of authenticity.
Let your friend know how much they mean to you. Tell them and show them they are loved. Be as specific as possible. What do you love about them? What traits, in particular, do you adore? What are you proud of them for? Feeling your support around them will bolster them up.
Remind them of their strengths. When someone’s depressed it’s easy to forget that things can get better. Reminding your friend of past times that they overcame adversity and how they did it can show them that this period of pain won’t last forever. New hope is coming, and they just need to hold on to get there. And, with you by their side, they will know that they can.