Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Desperate to Help Your Friend in Crisis? First Steps To Bringing Comfort

When a friend is depressed, has a major life change or is grieving, it is very tempting to want to rescue them from their sadness, anxiety and pain.

To shake them out of it.
To make them laugh.
To make everything normal.
To help them climb out of their darkness and brush off their fears, regrets, anger and despair.

We want them to feel better and feel alive. We want them to be part of our world which is familiar, comfortable and safe to us.

We want to tell our friend it's all going to be ok.
They will get over it.
They will move on.
This pain won't feel this deep, this stabbing, this visceral forever.

And I'm sure if they could they would want to return to that normality too.

They would desperately want the difficult times to pass quickly so that they could join you in your revelry.

They don't want to feel this angst any more than you can bear to watch it.

But it is not that simple.

They cannot just snap out of it because you think it's time.

So here's what you can do.

Instead of wanting them to meet you where you are,
Instead of hoping they'll join you at your level of happiness, joy and calm

you need to go to where they are sheltering.

Wherever that is………..

under the proverbial blanket, in the cave or down the hole.

You need to climb in, however dark, deep, messy, dirty, hot or emotional it is and stand, sit or lie there with them.

You need to tell them you are coming to them.

Tell them you care.
Tell them you love them.
Tell them you are there to support them.
Tell them it is important to you to be where they need to be.

Acknowledge whatever they are feeling and tell them you want to learn more and understand.
Do not minimize their feelings or disagree with them.

Do not be afraid to sit quietly.
Let them cry and  help them voice their fears.
You do not, in fact you cannot solve their issues.
They are not yours to solve.

Instead, burrow under and dig deep until you reach them.

You will have given them the biggest gift of all.
Your gift of understanding they are in pain. 
Your gift of listening.
Your gift of traveling to where they are and holding their hand.

From there, once you reach them….slowly slowly you can help them. 

When they ask you for help or advice that is your cue.

Offer them hope with a lighter blanket, a flashlight or a shovel and an expert to guide their way, so that they have some tools to help them edge towards the light.

When they are ready to use them, with you by their side, they can find a path through their pain, grief or loss to a new place, one small step at a time.

Thinking about and sending love to you all


If you or someone you love is in immediate danger please call emergency services immediately

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) USA
1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) USA

For confidential support in the UK, call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or see

These Posts May Help You Help Others Too:-

Sunshine & Rain: How to Live With Both

Who Benefits From Silver Linings?

Lost For Words?  12 Things To Say and Avoid When a Friend is in Crisis

The Power of Validation

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  1. I just posted a comment, but it may have been lost, so I'll try again. This is a beautiful and wise article, Gilly. You are able to say what people need in times of despair from a place of love and compassion rather than scolding people for what they haven't done or couldn't do. Some people had endless ability to sit with me in the hardest times. Others could not. I was grateful for those who could, but understood when people couldn't handle my tears. I shared this piece on FB personal page and will share it on author page soon. With gratitude,

    1. Thank you for persevering with your comment Elaine.

      It can be so daunting to enter the dark,sad place that someone may be inhabiting. Not everyone is able to it and that is ok.

      What I try to remember as the friend, is that I am able to take breaks and walk away. They cannot.
      When I wrote 'Pondering on The Porch' back in 2012 I envied those who could walk away from our pain, after a visit, but boy was I glad they came.
      Thank you very much for sharing the post Elaine and for your incredible support and feedback. Gx

  2. Love, love LOVE this, Gilly!! What greater gift to give someone who is hurting than to be right where they are. I would think it would be so much easier for the "helping" friend to just "be", and not have to strategize ways to try and draw the hurting friend out. Let the one who is hurting lead the way. Absolutely wonderful post!! Hugs!!

  3. Thank you,Marie! The combination of your presence and lack of expectations may help the person hurting to relax and be able to think a little about their next steps, knowing you are there to support rather than impose. Hugs to you too! Gillyx