What to Do When Your Loved One is Suffering

Written by Angela Atkinson

Whether your loved one is dealing with an abusive relationship – or an illness, addiction, career change, or other serious issues, it’s hard to watch them suffer. You want to wave a magic wand that makes them happy and solves their issues. However, you don’t have a magic wand. So what can you do?

When your loved one is struggling, you can help in several ways:

1. Avoid letting your fear take over. You may be incredibly worried and concerned, but fear can make things more difficult. It can cloud your judgment and make you choose the wrong path to help those you care about. Ensure that fear isn’t affecting your decisions.

2. Listen to their wishes. Your loved ones may want to talk about big decisions. It’s important to refrain from interrupting them or stop the conversation. As their support system, one of the best things you can do is to listen and pay attention to what they want to say.

  • They may say things that are hard to hear. They may discuss how they want to handle their illness or addiction. They may talk about relocating for a new job or trying a different career path.
  • Avoid the impulse to judge, criticize, or argue. Your loved ones need to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with you. You may be the only support they have right now.

3. Recognize that you can’t fix everything. It’s tempting to rush around and try to end their suffering, but it’s not possible for you to fix everything in someone else’s life.

  • Accept the limitations and try to make the best of the situation. Understand that sometimes your loved one needs to be in charge and make their own decisions.

4. Ask for help. You don’t have to do everything alone. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Many times, it takes great strength to ask for help.

  • You may be using a great deal of energy to help your loved one. To be at your best, take time to take care of yourself, too. If you’re sick, worn out or tired, then you can’t be an effective helper.
  • Reach out to others to grow your network of support so you can get help when it’s necessary.

5. Be careful how you try to cheer them up. One of your natural responses may be to try to cheer up your loved one. However, this may not work out well. Be sensitive to their emotions.

  • If you try to show them pictures or videos of happier times, they may become sadder.
  • If you try to invite friends over and throw a party, they may feel uncomfortable and out of place.
  • Even comfort food may not be effective in cheering them up. They may be on a special diet or have difficulty eating. Your cooking efforts may be wasted, and you may end up resenting the time you spend making special dishes.
  •  Before you jump in and try to cheer up others, stop and think about how they really feel.

You can reduce the suffering of your loved one. You have the power and the ability to lighten their burden. Try these techniques to help you both get through this challenging time.

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