“Being There”: Helping a Loved One Through Difficult Times

Generally, helping our loved ones, or “being there”, as we like to put it,  can be extremely exhausting. It often feels like there are too many fine lines to tow.

  • How do I know when I cross the line between being caring and being overbearing?
  • How do I let them know that I’m here for them while giving them space to navigate their issues?
  • How do I deal with the hurt from having my help rejected by them?
  • How do I even know what help they need?
  • What do I do when I’m getting weary of helping out?

Questions, questions.

Well, I regret to inform you that there is no one-size-fits-all guide to answering these questions.

We as human beings are unique, and so are the challenges we tackle daily, our dispositions to them, and the extent to which they affect our psyches.

However, there are methods that I believe help in reaffirming to our loved ones in troubling times that they are not alone.

1. More often than we know, a listening ear is a huge part of their needs.

Please, please, please resist the urge to prove that you can relate to their problems or start a sufferlympics* challenge to prove that you, or someone else you know, are in much worse conditions. For Nigerians, this is often our default response to people opening up about their problems  because our social culture encourages inducing gratitude based on the premise that many others have it worse. It’s a thing I have had to consciously unlearn myself, because responses to opening up don’t get much more counterproductive than that.

2. If they’re not ready to open up, don’t try to pry them open.

Again, forcing people to bare their hearts is another response could yield results directly contrary to your expectations. Usually, reassurance does a much better job. Communicate very clearly to them that you are available if they would ever like to talk, and ask them if there is any way in which you could help with anything. If they agree, yay! If they decline, no hard feelings.

Remind them again that you’re in their corner and that you’ll get through the problem with them.

3. Don’t assume.

Ask. In your enthusiasm to brighten their mood and help ease the weight of their problems, you could be tempted to plan out a pleasant surprise out behind their backs. While it could be an amazing silver lining for them, there is a fair chance it might not go as planned. Again, it all boils down to knowing your loved one. If the said surprise is not a thing that they have directly or indirectly asked for, especially if it is emotionally tasking activity like a surprise party, it’s much safer to ask rather than assume they’d like it.

4. Be real.

Lastly, when you reassure them, ensure it is to a realistic extent. False hope could be dangerous, so you’d do well to gently encourage them to seek professional help if it seems they require it. Navigating these boundaries could be difficult, but being open and empathetic does a lot of good in helping you deal with it.

Sufferlympics* – A slang created by a fusion of “suffering” and “Olympics” usually used to describe an obsessive need to prove that one is in more dire straits than another person.

Related; Helping a Loved One Through Difficult Times

Have you ever had to help a loved one in trying times? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear in the comments!


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