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How to Support Someone Going through An Emotionally Difficult Time – Part One

Tea and Honey

“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh. “There, there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.

Which one do you relate the most to? For me, it fluctuates. Sometimes I’m piglet, being the person offering the support. Sometimes I’m Pooh, when I’m just feeling down and not like myself at all. In both roles, it’s important to remember that difficult times happen. It’s ok to be down and ok to be sad. If you’re piglet though, it can feel difficult to watch someone you love go through a difficult time. The tendency is to go into “fix it” mode and just want everything to be ok. If you’ve tried this, you may have noticed that it can backfire, or maybe you were confused when the person didn’t want the help you offered. 

This article is going to be split into two parts, the first being how to help someone during a difficult day or something more acute and in the moment. The second part will be how to support someone over the long term.

I’m a big advocate of hot beverages during difficult times, but here are also a few things to try when someone you love just isn’t feeling like themselves.

Holding Space 

Holding space is the term I use to describe just sitting with someone in the moment. Allow them to feel what they are feeling and not trying to actively turn around how that space is for them. Something I realized later in my life was that our tendency to want to fix things and our statements of, “Cheer up! It’s only going to get better,” are often more motivated behind our own feelings. We are sometimes uncomfortable with being around negative emotions and want to change the feeling into something more positive. We don’t know what else to say so we just try to change it into a positive situation where we do know what to say. 

Holding space looks like silent support most of the time, occasionally validating their feelings, but mainly just being ok with being there in quiet. If they are open to physical touch, (remember to ask consent first) cuddles, back rubs, or head scratches may also be welcome.

Practical Help

If someone is going through grief, depression, or anything else difficult, the practical tasks are often the first that are forgotten or not able to be done. It sounds cliché, but bringing them a meal, that tea and honey that piglet described, washing a load of laundry, doing dishes, any of all of these things can be incredibly supportive to the person you love. Consent is important though, make sure to check in with the person before you start messing around their things unless you already have blanket consent to interact with their personal belongings. The key here is to not just rely on the general question of “Can I help?” Rather, let us be more specific with questions like: 

  • “I would like to do dishes for you, is that ok?” 
  • “I brought you some food for you and your family. Would you like me to bring some to you now?” 
  • “I’m going to pick up some things” (pro tip: any trash you pick up, put in an empty, separate grocery bag. This way, if you accidentally throw something away that isn’t trash, they can easily get to it instead of digging through the larger trash bin.)
  • Bring them a soft blanket or other soft cuddly item.
  • Open up a window a crack to get fresh air in.
  • Turn on a diffuser with gentle smells you know they like.

If you’re Pooh in this situation, remember that if someone is offering to help, it’s ok to let them. You don’t have to be strong and doing everything all the time. It’s ok to accept help. You’re not a failure for accepting their offer. 

Non Judgment 

This is the biggest component. Helping them understand you don’t expect or need them to change, but rather, you accept them just as they are, is such a huge part of supporting someone. You are validating that their feelings are real and you are accepting of them and who they are in that moment. You are not responsible to fix or change anything about how they are feeling, but you are giving them freedom to be how they are without asking them to change for your comfort level. This is especially important for those who are used to being a caretaker or in the fix it role themselves. It can feel like they are disappointing everyone around them when they aren’t able to operate at their normal level. 

If you or someone you love is going through a rough time, please reach out and schedule an appointment! I would love to support you during this rough period. Tea and honey is always available! 

Give Amy Wine Counseling Center a call at 832-421-8714 if you have questions about our therapeutic services or would like to schedule an appointment.

 

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Alyssa Webb-McCune

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