When there's no answer to "is there anything I can do?"

This morning I read about the importance of bearing one another's burdens. It got me thinking about times that loved ones have supported me in dark times, and how much that meant to me.

I am a person who has emotional ups and downs. I share this because it is my reality, but also because I, like many, believe there is a need for greater awareness and destigmatization of mental health issues.

Well-intentioned friends and family often comfort a hurting loved one with sayings like "I am here for you", "I am thinking of you". We often ask questions like "Is there anything I can do?" and "What do you need?" However, a struggling person rarely has the words to express their needs or a specific way they could be helped. I don't share this to guilt trip anyone or point to wrongful ways of trying to comfort someone. I truly believe that we all want to help hurting loved ones, we just don't always know how.

I have some pretty amazing people in my life who have showed me what I need in dark times. In my low times, whether it be from an a specific event or just a time of depression, there's no way I'd be able to express what would help. While everyone is different, I want to share what my loved ones have done that has helped me when I couldn't answer "how can I help?"

1. Check in. When I went through a hard time recently, a particular friend texted me every single day asking how I was doing. It was a relief knowing that I could sound off to her, or tell her the good things about the day, when I got that text.

2. Create rest for them. When I'm just in a down mood and have no idea what would help, my husband often surrounds me with happy things that create rest. He'll pull up a chair next to the fireplace for me with a cozy blanket, a book, and some chocolate.

3. Go the distance. A hug from someone you love can make a world of difference. Knowing that you traversed miles to see them, whether it be 15 minutes or 15 hours, can reassure someone who is hurting that they are cared for.

4. Let them be sad. While there is a time and place for wisdom and inspiration, a hurting person needs room to feel what they feel. Hold them, let them cry, say 'I'm sorry' without adding 'there's a reason'. They will be ready for that in time.

5. Acknowledge it. Our society likes to brush over pain and misfortune. In social events where we can't dig deep, I find it hurts if someone who knows I'm going through a tough time says nothing at all. I would rather have them at least mention it (this might be the right time for "I've been thinking of you"). That makes me feel more seen and loved then pretending everything is good.

6. Pray for them. Lift them up to the Healer, and let them know you are doing so. We don't have to come to God with a solution in mind or a desire to fix that person. We can just ask him to wrap his arms around them and show them his love.

7. Give them a comforting gift. Flowers are wonderful. Make a playlist of hopeful, healing songs (here's mine). I also think there's a reason children cling to their stuffed animals for comfort. During a hard time my husband gave me a pillow pet. Her name is Patty and she's a pink pig. She will forever be comfort to me!
What have you found loved ones can do to help you when you are down?
Have you ever cared for a hurt loved one in a way that they have really appreciated?

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  1. That is a hard question. My husband has anxiety and I've had to learn sometimes the logical solution is not helpful for him and I just need to listen and say the same comforting things I've said before. But I've also heard just listening when someone is upset is often better than offering helpful suggestions!

  2. I love this post because there are so many "helpful", ingrained habits that we have to break to TRULY let that person be in their emotions and to love them exactly as they are. I recently read about anxiety and not asking a person in that state to make decisions, even if it's "what do you need?" Instead, offering things and feeling/listening closely to what works is what I aim for now. Thank you for discussing and being vulnerable Kelsey!

  3. I think "check in" is huge. Just a text once day to be say, "I love you! Hang in there!" or "How's it going?" can make a world of difference!

  4. Thank you. This is excellent advise to those of us who want to help and feel the need and desire to lift someone up and maybe out of whatever is going on. As you clearly allow me to understand far better that I did, even when I am the one who is down, we need to know where to begin, how to lift one up, or how to allow them to stay where they are and yet feel ebtter. I love the chair in front of the fireplace. I love the hugs. I love the ways to comfort without making the person feel like the MUST feel better. This was excellent.

  5. Great insight into ways we can support friends who are down, Kelsey. I've heard it said that sometimes when people are going through a rough time, it's better to just offer to do something specific for them (like, "I'll bring dinner over tomorrow"), rather than asking the the broader question of how you can help. Thanks for this brave and vulnerable post!


Feel free to comment! I'd love to hear your thoughts.