At some point in everyone’s life, a friend or loved one will need support. Whether they’ve received a difficult diagnosis, are struggling with a domestic situation, have mental or emotional challenges, or the nature of their occupation puts them in harm’s way, it’s important to them to know that they have a team behind them.
Often, those on the outside of the circumstance want to help the person and/or their family in any way that they can, but they aren’t sure how to do it. Here are 10 ways that you can show support and be there for someone you care about.
- Research: Find out as much as you can about the illness or circumstance that is affecting your loved one from reliable resources. Having a good base understanding will help you know some of the challenges they’re facing and will give you an opportunity to ask them relevant questions or provide appropriate help as needed.
- Listen: So often, all a person needs is to share their side of the story. They may need to vent, or relay what they’re going through, or maybe even talk about something totally off-topic to get their minds on something else. The best thing you can do is be there to listen. Not just pretend-listen -- truly listen to what they’re saying, and let them say it all. During a listening session, only offer advice if it’s asked, and keep the focus on them.
- Treat them normally: A disease, disorder, abuse or career does not define someone. It can be lonely for a person who feels they don’t have many people that can relate to their situation, so don’t amplify that loneliness by leaving them off of invitations, talking to them in only sympathetic tones, or acting like they’re extra fragile. Be aware of what they need to stay physically and emotionally healthy, but treat them as you typically would treat them -- as a friend or family member. Let them make the choice of what they do and do not want to participate in.
- Advocate: Be vocal about your support. Stand up with and for the person always, and be their voice if they can’t say something themselves. Leave no doubt whatsoever that you’re in their corner, even if they aren’t around to hear you. Being someone’s cheerleader builds confidence and positivity, and puts you in the center of the fight alongside them.
- Recommend resources: If you have access to resources, materials and/or services that can help your loved one, offer to connect them. One of the greatest resources is often someone who is also going through something similar -- if you know someone who can relate to your friend or family member, offer an introduction. If you know of good books, websites, apps, or service providers that are vetted and relevant, make a recommendation. Be gracious if the person turns down your recommendation, and understand that if it’s something they want or need, they’ll follow up.
- Wear apparel and accessories: There is power in visible signs of support. Wearing a support ribbon, or clothing and accessories that symbolize your commitment to the cause is often a great way to build confidence and combat loneliness in someone.
- Attend events: A big part of being a good friend or family member is showing up. Show up to events, educational sessions, treatments, appointments, or anything else that would mean a lot to your loved one. Physical presence is a comfort to many, especially in circumstances where a person needs to feel like they have a good support system. Be visible, be present, and be there for them.
- Help with household tasks: If you have a close relationship and/or have permission from the person, offer to take on some of the household chores so that they don’t have to worry about them. Make meals, sweep, dust, take the dog for a walk, mow their lawn, or go grocery shopping. When someone is going through a difficult time, the last thing on their mind is getting the laundry folded or emptying the dishwasher. Don’t ask *what* you can do, just offer to do something and ask if it’s okay that you do it.
- Offer childcare: If someone is going through treatment, or if they’re having a very rough time emotionally or mentally, or their job is extra demanding, having someone they know and love take care of their children while they rest or attend appointments can be a huge weight lifted off their shoulders. Even if it’s just for an hour or two at a time, periodic childcare can help someone get back to a good place.
- Donate funds: Particularly in the case of a medical diagnosis, bills can add up extremely quickly and often overwhelm families who are suddenly and unexpectedly on the hook for a lot of money. Also, many people must take off work for physical or emotional reasons, or to attend court in domestic abuse cases, and they lose pay because of it right as their bills start to pile up. Set up a Go Fund Me, or discreetly offer to help out if that’s something you’re able to do.
Do you know of other ways to show a loved one support? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.