Giving and Receiving Real Support

June 7th, 2018 by admin in Communication, Friendship, Grief, Support, Vulnerability, health
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Support

One of the things I’ve noticed when someone who is well known dies by suicide, is that people are quick to try to figure out why.

They want a reason…maybe because a reason gives us the illusion of control…or maybe because as humans we are meaning-making creatures.

I also see a flurry of posts about mental health, getting support and reaching out if you are struggling. And yes, if you are struggling and are able to reach out, do! Get support. Make requests. Let the people who love you know how they can help.

Here’s what I think is missing in this discussion – most people who are really struggling aren’t able to reach out. Demanding that people should have reached out or asked for support can be judgmental and blaming.

This winter I had the flu. It was awful! I was in bed for days, feverish, coughing so hard it hurt and every cell in my body ached. I was miserable. I totally needed support. And you know what? I was suffering so much, that I didn’t have the capacity to reach out and ask for help. Many of my closest friends and family didn’t even know I had the flu until I was “better.” I was focused on getting well (actually because I was dehydrated at one point and kind of hallucinating, I was really just focused on staying alive, that’s how rough this flu was). I had a couple friends who checked in on me during that time. One sent a message and I replied telling her I was really sick and she sweetly told me that if I needed anything to let her know. It was so nice and thoughtful, and also…I didn’t even know what I needed. I was too sick to be able to think or identify needs or make a plan or make a request. One of my friends who knew I was sick checked in and offered to bring food or offered to pick my daughter up from school. And that was the kind of help I was able to receive. All I had to do was say yes or no. That experience really helped me understand how hard it is for someone to reach out when they are struggling.

When some is struggling their entire capacity is being taken up by the struggle. There isn’t anything left. And even though a text message or phone call might not feel like it’s a lot,  it is too much to demand from someone who is depressed or anxious or grieving or really sick.

So in addition to asking people to reach out when they are struggling, I think we could also do a better job of reaching out to the people we love and seeing how they are. Check in with the people you love. Ask how they are doing. Get together. Be honest with each other. Share what’s on your mind and in your heart.

And if you have a friend who is grieving, or struggling with illness or mental health challenges or just having a hard time, offer tangible ways you want to show up for them. Don’t wait for them to reach out. Be proactive. Take action.

If you want more ideas about how to support a friend who is struggling this post will help.

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