What Your Loved Ones Want You to Know About How to Support in a Difficult Time –

Recently, one of my best friends experienced a health crisis, and we weren’t sure if they would make it out. The experience was scary and shocking and still feels really big into the ongoing recovery. In the midst of this experience, I had incredible people who showed up in my life to support me, many who surprised me. At the same time, others who I expected would be there for me, weren’t. It felt like some people didn’t know how to help, and I often didn’t have the words or energy to let them know what I needed. Through this time, I made notes of what I needed and how I was feeling. I hope if you read these and think of someone in your life, it causes you to reach out to support them, even if you don’t know them that well. Or if you’re someone going through a tough time, I hope it gives you the words and the courage to ask for help.

  1. Think about your loved one’s love language. How might they best appreciate support?
    1. Quality Time: Try to be there with them as much as you can. Sometimes just being in their home with them can make them feel less alone or calling and staying on the phone or video chat, even if you don’t talk can feel like comfort.
    2. Gifts: Think about sending a coffee to their home or bringing a card handmade by you. 
    3. Acts of Service: This can look like helping with day-to-day tasks they may not have energy for. Doing things like washing their dishes, taking out the garbage, or reaching out to others in their community so they don’t have to can feel like a huge relief.
    4. Words of Affirmation: Let them know that they are loved, they are appreciated and that you are here for them and thinking about them. 
    5. Physical touch: Comfort might look like rubbing their back as they cry, holding them in a long hug or holding their hand as you do things with them like grocery shopping.
  2. Whatever way you decide to support will be right. Your loved one will see how much you care for them, even if you say or do the “wrong” thing sometimes. The worst is supportive words without action. Let your loved one know you’re there for them. 
  3. Using words such as “I’m here for you”, “you don’t have to go through this alone”, and “I’m thinking about you” are especially helpful. 
  4. In addition, as your loved one is overwhelmed, sticking to “yes” or “no” questions or questions with simple answers is best. This can look like “Can I come over now?”, “Can I do your dishes?”, “Would you like company?” or “Would you like sushi or pizza for dinner”. 
  5. Be clear with your own boundaries. If your loved one knows that you will tell them when you are feeling overwhelmed or need some space, they know they can lean on you and know you will take care of yourself too so they don’t have to. 
  6. Talk about what’s going on. Whether someone has passed away, someone is sick, struggling with mental illness or another difficult time, it will likely be present in your loved one’s mind a lot. Distractions are great and can be helpful at times, but don’t avoid talking about what’s going on. Mention people’s names, tell stories and ask questions, following your loved one’s lead. 

All in all, reaching out is key. It’s really tough to ask for help, especially when someone is going through a tough time. If you’re putting in the effort to check in, show up and go above and beyond for them, your loved one will know they don’t have to go through this alone and that, above all else, can mean everything. 

If you’re struggling through something, know that it’s good to ask for help. Often the people in your life feel honoured to be asked to be there for you. If asking for help from your community feels tough or you’re finding that your community is not showing up even though you’re asking, don’t be afraid to reach out to those you may not be as close to, making new connections or to reach out to services in your area.

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