By Melodie Veldhuizen
“Caring is to be with others, cry with others, suffer with others, feel with others. Caring is empathy, mercy, compassion. It is to cling to the truth that every other person is my brother and sister; just as human, mortal, vulnerable as I.” (Henri Nouwen)
Everyone sometimes experiences difficult times – the death of a loved on, terminal illness, job loss, financial problems or even depression due to loneliness or the longing for loved ones. You would like to encourage your loved one, a family member, friend or even colleague who is suffering, or simply show that you care, but don’t always know what to say or do. Following are some guidelines. Be sincere in what you say or do. This entails more than just saying “I’m sorry for you” or “I’m sorry about what happened”.
What to do:
- Give a card or letter with a personal message, printed or hand-written.
- Give flowers. If it is someone you don’t know well, find out what her favourite chocolate is, or make sure she’s not allergic to flowers.
- Often a hug says more than a thousand words.
- Offer to help, or surprise the person with an unexpected good deed. Help take care of children, prepare food, do shopping or help a colleague to complete a project in time.
- Be generous. This is a small but yet meaningful way in which to show that you care. Offer the last cookie in the bowl, share your chocolate or make tea.
- Follow up. After the initial sympathy, chat or visit, don’t forget the person. Later, after all the calls and visits have dried up, is exactly the time to make contact again and enquire after the person’s wellbeing. He/she might then be more prepared to chat.
- Respect it if he/she might want to visit or chat.
What to say:
- If you feel like talking about your sadness/dismay, can we make an appointment? Because you are important to me, I’m prepared to listen, even though I might not be able to solve your problem or alleviate your pain. I genuinely care.
- Do you remember all the great things you did for me/us in the past or are still doing? Thank you so much for that and now it is my/our turn to do something for you to make life easier for you.
- Remember when you supported me when I went through a difficult time? Now it’s my turn to support you.
- You aren’t alone in this situation – there are people who would like to help and support you and I’m one of them.
- It upsets me that you are going through a difficult time, but I know you will survive. Do you remember the time when you experienced an even more difficult challenge and how you handled it?
- Do your best and don’t put so much pressure on yourself. It will only upset you more if you don’t live up to your own, sometimes unrealistic, expectations.
- You are brave and I admire your willingness to carry on, despite your fear and pain. I’m proud of you and of the way you are handling the situation.
- I recently went through the same thing and if you should ever need advice, we can chat. I might be able to help you gain perspective on your situation.
- It’s okay and normal to be sad, upset, angry or experience any other negative emotion.
- What happened is not necessarily your or anyone else’s fault. Don’t blame yourself or others. Initial anger and frustration are human, but to endlessly continue fretting is a waste of energy.
- Be kind to yourself and take care of your physical and emotional wellbeing.
- Try to distance yourself from the problem/situation and look at the matter from another perspective. It could help you shed light on the problem and find insights and solutions you may never have thought of.
- Nothing bad or unpleasant lasts forever, even if it might feel so right now. (In most situations these words might console but in the case of the death of a loved one, disability or terminal illness, even time won’t alter the situation and acceptance or consolation might never really take place).
- Focus on the present and take if step by step, day by day. Try not to yearn after what was or to fear the future. The present is the only part of your life story that you can do something about.
- Try to see something good or positive in each day – what happened that was enjoyable or good, what did you achieve? (A person going through difficult times could easily fall into depression or negativity).
- Is there something positive that you can identiy, emanating from this situation?
- I’m here for you – to listen, or to help with anything if you should need me.
Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/5-ways-to-show-you-care/