How to Help Someone you Love who is Hurting
We tend to feel quite helpless when we don’t know how to fix a bad situation.
The past few years have been very difficult for me to get through. But because of that, I’ve learned what has helped me the most (and what hasn’t).
So I’ve created a list of 7 things you can do for your loved one that will help the most.
By following these suggestions, it will bring the two of you closer because they will know you support and care for them.
There’s a reason this is first on the list. Listening is so important! If you don’t listen carefully to how they’re feeling, you can’t do the rest of the things on this list effectively.
Sometimes, someone who is hurting just needs another person to vent to. And what are friends (& family) for?! Friends & family stay beside one another, listen to one another, encourage each other, and enjoy life together.
Remember, don’t tell a story of a time when you had it worse. Even if you did, it doesn’t help them feel better. Unless you are telling them ways you got through it and how it might help them.
Ask questions so you can help them & better understand their situation.
“How can I help?” “Would _____ help you feel better?” “What can I get for you?” “Is there something in your schedule that I can do for you?” (e.g., Grocery shopping, taking something to the post office, picking something up for them, dropping off/picking up their kids from school, etc.)
Showing you want to help is one of the best ways to show someone you’re there to support them.
Don’t dismiss their fears or concerns.
Acting like nothing is wrong or changing the subject can make them feel guilty for feeling the way they do or for having fears about present or future circumstances.
This goes back to listening. If you’re not sure what to say, tell them you love them and are there for them.
Don’t say you know exactly how it feels.
No two people have the exact same experiences.
What I mean is, when my parents and cousin passed away, all within 6 months, hearing someone say they ‘know how it feels’ made me a little upset. I realize they were trying to help me feel less alone. But no one can know exactly how another person feels.
In this instance, no one has the same relationship with their parents, or the circumstances that brought you close to or distant from them, or took care of them until they died, or watched both parents pass away, or has the same guilt, or took care of a younger brother after they died, and still find a way to be a good mom during that whole time. There’s not one person who had the SAME EXACT experiences and emotions to know how it feels. You can have similar experiences, but no two people are the same or lead the same life.
Another example is telling a Mom who just lost her baby you know exactly how she feels because you have lost a child too. You may have felt extremely hurt like she does now, and you may still feel that way. Losing a child can create unbelievable pain. But the fact is, if you didn’t lose your baby at the same time as she did, did all the same things during pregnancy, battled fertility problems for years like her, etc., telling her you know exactly how she feels is simply not true.
It could have hurt just as much when you lost your child, but to her, it won’t be the same because no one has the exact same experiences and emotions. Your intentions are honorable for trying to help her feel less alone. But when someone is hurting, it won’t come across that way. Instead, tell her ways you got through your grief and suggest to do some of them together. That is what will help her feel less alone and bring you two closer together.
The point is, even if you both have been incredibly hurt, like you would be in these examples, one doesn’t necessarily hurt worse than the other person, it’s just different hurts.
Again, listening to what emotions they’re experiencing and being supportive is a lot better than saying you know exactly how it feels.
**If you’ve been through a very similar situation, saying, “I know it hurts” or “I know this isn’t easy” is probably a better option.
Be a shoulder to cry on.
This goes back to listening. If someone you care about is hurting, they may need to take time to vent and express how they are feeling. Being a shoulder to cry on means being there to listen to their thoughts and do your best to comfort them while they express their emotions.
Just knowing they have your support and love can be enough, and depending on the circumstances, may be all you can do to help.
Don’t pressure them to talk before they are ready.
Pressuring them to do things they aren’t comfortable doing can make them distant. It has ruined friendships and family members relationships because one person felt the other one wasn’t dealing with their hurt the right way or by continually pressuring them to do something they’re uncomfortable with.
**If the person you love is in fact handling their situation the wrong way – endangering others, abusing alcohol or drugs, harming him or herself – please seek professional help for them.
And don’t assume that they don’t want to talk about why they’re hurting. If they don’t want to talk, they’ll let you know.
Encourage without dismissing their feelings.
Be careful not to dismiss what they’re saying or their emotions when you’re trying to encourage them. Acting like nothing is wrong or telling them it could be a lot worse (especially if the hurt just recently happened) is not going to be very encouraging or supportive.
Try to stick with being there when they need you, trying to help them smile, and helping them when they ask.
One way to help someone you love and care about who is hurting is to pray with and for them. Telling them you are praying for them can be very comforting. Another way to encourage someone is by sending them daily Bible verses. Or you can write a few in a comforting card, or share this picture with them:
Everyone, at some point in their life, goes through unfortunate circumstances. So it’s important to be there for your loved ones when they need you.
If the person who is hurting needs some encouragement and support, my article “What to do when you feel like Giving Up (from someone who has felt that way too)” has helped other people and will hopefully help the person you care about also.
And just remember, love is a great healer.