The feeling of being inadequate when supporting a friend, family member, or colleague who has experienced a loss or is faced with uncertainty for a family member or themselves is a reality. It’s not uncommon to fumble or feel uncomfortable when engaging with them, so instead we often avoid interaction. Just today, I spoke with a friend who has avoided a family member experiencing a personal hardship as she didn’t want to upset her family member. My friend felt by engaging in conversation, she would upset her family member. To me, asking how someone is getting along is a caring gesture rather than being intrusive.
True confessions, I often stumble on how to help those closest to me. Our best gestures can be interpreted as exercising judgment towards them rather than engaging with genuine probing questions to provide love and support. Those who are in emotional pain tend to be extremely sensitive and often defensive when told, “You should or you shouldn’t (do something),” they react in a defensive manner. Your circle of influence provides different roles: some provide the perfect comforting words based on the experience of similar journeys, while others truly believe they add value to the situation, although their approach might result in hurt feelings.
Here is my advice to you when faced with helping a loved one – ask a simple question: Are you in need of a hug, help, or just want to be heard?
You will be amazed how the encounter will soften as the person you’re helping will provide guidance on how to approach them. The special hug or touch may present an opportunity to engage in future conversation or to just stop there.
As individuals, we respond differently to people who play different roles in our lives. Always remember our emotions fluctuate throughout the day, so in the morning you may need a hug and by the end of the day you might need to be heard. Simple right? Unfortunately, our nature in supporting our loved ones is to “fix” or “resolve” the situation. In the case of a life-altering challenge, there is nothing to fix, but rather providing help (in the form of support), a hug, or just being heard is a great relief.
I am sending hugs to you all; reach out if I can help or if you need to be heard.