Witnessing a loved one in crisis can be a heart-wrenching experience. It’s a situation that not only impacts the person going through the crisis, but also takes a toll on those around them who care deeply. Whether they are grappling with grief, addiction, depression, or any other difficult circumstance, the impact reverberates through their lives and those around them.
When you’re supporting someone amidst a personal crisis, your most important role is to extend compassion and support. Although we cannot single-handedly control the outcome of a crisis, there are ways to help your loved one get through it. Your willingness to offer support and understanding can provide a vital lifeline during their darkest moments.
Tips for Showing Up in Times of Crisis
1. Practice active listening.
Give the person your full attention, maintain eye contact, and genuinely listen to their concerns without interrupting or passing judgment. Active listening allows the person in crisis to feel heard and understood, providing a safe space for them to express their emotions and experiences. By actively engaging in their story, you validate their feelings and help them process their thoughts.
2. Validate their feelings.
When someone is going through a crisis, their emotions can be intense and overwhelming. Acknowledge and validate the person’s emotions and experiences without minimizing their struggles. Let them know it’s okay to feel the emotions they’re feeling, and that you are there for them no matter what.
3. Be non-judgmental.
In times of crisis, it is crucial to avoid criticizing or blaming the person for their situation. Instead, offer empathy, understanding, and support. Recognize that everyone faces challenges and that their struggles are not a reflection of their character or worth. Approach the situation with an open mind, suspending judgment, and focusing on providing unconditional support. Remember, a non-judgmental stance encourages open communication and creates an atmosphere where the person feels safe sharing their thoughts and emotions.
4. Encourage professional help.
Sometimes, professional help can be instrumental in guiding someone through a difficult situation or life event. If appropriate, suggest seeking professional help from mental health experts, such as therapists or counselors. Explain the benefits of professional assistance in providing specialized care and expertise. Offer to help them find suitable resources or accompany them to appointments if needed.
5. Respect their boundaries.
Respecting the boundaries of someone in crisis is essential for fostering trust and creating a safe space. Recognize that everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to seeking help or sharing personal information. Be attentive to their cues and avoid pressuring them to disclose more than they are comfortable with. If they ask to change the subject or need some space, respect their wishes. Demonstrating respect for their boundaries builds a foundation of trust and allows them to take ownership of their healing process.
6. Educate yourself.
As an ally, you can arm yourself with knowledge to better understand and support your loved one. Take the initiative to educate yourself through reputable sources, books, or online materials. By familiarizing yourself with their experiences, you can offer informed support and contribute to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Your knowledge can also help you recognize warning signs and provide valuable resources to your loved one.
7. Be patient and understanding.
Recovery from a crisis is rarely a linear path. It takes time, and setbacks are common. As an ally, practicing patience and understanding is key. Be patient with the person and understand that their journey may involve ups and downs. Offer ongoing support, reminding them that healing takes time and that setbacks do not diminish their progress. Your unwavering presence and understanding can provide the stability and encouragement they need to persevere.
8. Offer practical assistance.
During a crisis, everyday tasks and responsibilities can feel overwhelming. Offering practical assistance, such as helping with household chores, running errands, cooking meals, or providing transportation, can provide immense relief and support. By lightening their load, you give them the space and time to focus on their well-being and recovery.
9. Be available, be present, and follow up.
Being available and present for someone in crisis can make a significant difference in their journey to healing. Check in with them regularly to see how they’re doing, both physically and emotionally. Offer your support and lend a listening ear without being overbearing. Engage in activities together that don’t revolve solely around discussing the crisis, providing moments of respite and normalcy. Following up consistently demonstrates your ongoing commitment to their well-being and reinforces the trust and connection between you.
10. Know your limits and boundaries.
While it is important to be there for someone in crisis, it is equally vital to take care of yourself. Recognize the importance of self-care and understanding your own limits. Recognize your own limits and boundaries, and ensure that you prioritize your well-being. Engage in self-care practices, seek support from others, and establish healthy boundaries. Remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup.
In the end, it is important to remember that you cannot single-handedly control the outcome of a crisis. However, you can be a compassionate and understanding friend. It’s okay to not have all the answers—the most important thing is that you’re there. By showing up, listening, and validating their feelings, you can be a powerful source of comfort as they heal. Your presence can make all the difference.
If you or someone you love is struggling, help is available. No matter what you’re going through, trained professionals are here to offer the support and guidance you need. Reach out to the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.