How to care for your (suffering) friends?

It is of human nature to suffer, either physically, psychologically or both. This past year has been high in political changes, natural disasters and every thing in between from heartbreak to scrapped knees causing, or being exposed to, profund pain.

It is also of human nature to surround oneself with caring people, as humans are social animals.

So, how do we take care of those friends? How not to feel powerless in face of their pain?

What to do when you can’t take their pain away?


Listen

In our society, overwhelmed by social medias and advanced communication devices, we have lost the subtil art of listening.

Listening is being attuned to the other.

You are not listening if you are thinking about your answer.

You are not listening if you are thinking or responding with a personal exemple.

You are not listening if you are « comparing » yourself.

This isn’t about you. This is not a suffering competition.
Listening is receiving with empathy what your friend is sharing you.

Some people do not want solutions, they need to be heard. To feel supported.

Sometimes, the best way to help a friend is letting them know that « you hear them ».

It is mirroring what they say so you can really understand. Don’t make assumption.

It is not projecting your own feelings or prejudices. Your friend might not feel the same way.

Make sure you understand what they are telling you.

Don’t be overly optimistic. Don’t minimize what they are saying.

Just listen. 

Ask them what THEY need? They are the experts of their own lives .

 

Give them space 

Suffering takes a toll on one’s health and mind. It can be very tiresome. It can also be very lonely.

Some people feel the need to isolate themselves. Respect their decisions.

Let them know you are there for them. Try to check regularly on them. Remind them gently of your presence.

Make sure they are safe. Be patient. Be mindful.

Don’t resent if you have to be the one who makes « most efforts » at this time. At some other, your friend might do the same for you.

This is not about you. You can be sad your friend is going through a rough patch. Don’t make them feel guilty for needing space
Be compassionate and empathic

Living with pain, either mental and physical is draining. Your friend might be exhausted.

Your friend might also feel guilty because of its limitations.

Your friend might feel inadequate.

Your friend might feel like a bad friend, for cancelling your date again or not seeing you enough.

Be understanding. Be compassionate. Let them know you are okay with it.

Suggest to accomodate them or reschedule.

Don’t infantilize your friend. Respect their wishes. Don’t minimize their feelings.

Don’t take it personal. It is not about you.

Practice self-care

Being confronted with pain or suffering of others can be emotionally exhausting.

You might know a lot of suffering people.

You might feel like walking on eggshells at times.

When surrounded with intense emotions, it can feel overwhelming.

It might means you need some space. To distant yourself from the suffering.

It might means you need to reevaluate your approach.

You can’t « save your friend ».  You can’t take their pain away.

You can only be you. Only be there to support them, to hear them.

To take care of others, you have to take care of yourself first.

Seek support if needed.
Friendships can be complicated. Life is.

Being friend with someone who suffers can be challenging.

It can also be extremely rewarding.  But it has to be filled mutual respect and love.

 

I obviously don’t have all the answers. I might even be wrong. But you can ask yourself; what is the best way for you to take care of your friend?

Ask your friend; how do they want you to take care of them?

Humbly yours,

Your suffering host, Catherine