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3 Ways to Give a Little, but Do a Lot When Your Loved One is Down

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When someone you love is going through a troublesome time it is difficult to be around them. They may have never needed your presence more, but seeing someone you love down makes each of us feel helpless to relieve the pain. We all have a need to "fix" our loved ones' hurts, and when we realize we cannot fix them, we often opt for ignoring them. This of course brings our loved one more pain, because being alone deepens their feeling of isolation and sadness. We may jump in too fast with our own anger at seeing our loved one hurt, and offer bad counsel. For example, telling your best friend to smash the window or tire of her ex's new car because he cheated on her is not only irrational, but dangerous advice, and could end up putting your friend at risk for breaking the law. Save stupid behavior for the ex, and don't worsen your loved ones' troublesome time. Many times our loved one caused their own pain by making choices lacking good judgment, and reminding them of this is perhaps the most destructive and least helpful thing you can say to them emotionally.

There are options you can take that work the best in most situations and afford your loved one the best likelihood of feeling loved, cared for, and stronger. Below are my suggestions.

  1. 1.     Listen: this means, you don't offer advice or try to talk them out of any feeling. Just listen and let them cry. Offering them a tissue is more worthwhile than any words you may have.
  2. 2.     Be compassionate and non-judgmental: this is done through acts of caring. Expressions such as checking on them, sending them a card, or a joke to light up their day helps them feel less alone and more loved. Offering them advice here, if they request it, may help them feel as though their trouble is not quite so heavy.
  3. 3.     Be present: your presence means everything. Everything from social media to TV entertains us with distraction. The most difficult gift you can give someone is sitting with them quietly allowing them to feel your hug, warmth and total presence. Shut your electronics off, and allow yourself to be totally here now.

The majority of the counseling profession I chose is being present for clients when they are discouraged, overwhelmed and down. Many times my sessions turn into listening, providing compassion, and being present. In fact, it is enlightening to see how little of therapy is actually giving advice. Most people do not want advice, and when they do, they will ask for it. Unless asked openly and directly always hold your words and redirect yourself to being there and listening. With helping a loved one who is down, the easiest and most sought after gift is simply being heard and not judged for what you feel. –Mary Jo Rapini

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