It can be painful watching those we love struggle. We may feel out of control, helpless, scared, and not sure what to do.
Have you ever found yourself in this situation? Whether your loved one’s pain is a result of addiction, health issues, depression, or even current states of the world, it can be tough. We are incredibly affected by our relationships and want the best for the people in our lives.
Here are a few ways you can support a loved one (and yourself) through difficult times:
- Be the best version of yourself
If you are not sleeping, eating well, able to concentrate, or live your life as a result of worrying about a loved one, you aren’t being the best version of yourself. When we are not taking care of ourselves, it is difficult to be strong for others. Try to focus on being the best version of yourself by maintaining your own self-care routine as much as possible. Remember it’s ok to consider your own needs and safety first. Step away or get help if the situation is too much and you need support.
- Unconditional love
Loving someone does not mean fixing their problems. It means listening and allowing them to be where they are at and who they are in that moment. Offer your love and support not because you expect a particular outcome, but because it feels right. However, creating healthy boundaries are essential for unconditional love. If you find that your love, kindness, and safety are not being respected, it may be best to step away and re-evaluate the relationship.
- What are your limits?
It’s important to know that it’s not your job to fix anyone. Our loved ones may need to work through the struggle to help them get where they need to be. This does not mean that you cannot talk to them and offer them support. However, the future doesn’t always lie in our hands. It is often up to the person themselves to take steps and make important life changes.
- Prayer, Meditation, and Deep Reflection
Believing and trusting that everything on earth has life and value is the essence of spiritual belief. Different people feel spiritual connection in different ways, but one common practice is connecting through quiet meditation, prayer, or reflection. During these times some may seek to relax their mind and body in order to be fully present in the moment, as with mindfulness meditation. Others may spend time sitting in nature reflecting on a particular topic. Some may pray to the Creator for guidance.
- Visualize Positive Outcomes
Your thoughts and imagination are powerful tools. Just as you feel horrible when imagining a negative outcome, you can feel positive and peaceful when imagining a positive outcome. Things can look bad and out of control, but your hope and positivity can deeply help your loved one. Continue thinking of what could change for the better and imagine the person living to their fullest potential.
For more techniques on visualizing, check out this Step-by-Step Guide
- Let go of Judgment
The person you love may be going through a dark time, but you have no idea why they are experiencing this. Perhaps it is necessary for their soul’s evolution. Maybe they are exactly where they should be in their life. Instead of judging their experience, offer a safe place for the person to just be who they need to be at the present moment.
For exercises on letting go of judgement, check out Mindfulness Exercises
- Be supportive, but have realistic expectations
Sometimes the thing a loved one is struggling with is something that they must learn to manage. No one can “make” someone change their behaviors. Keep in mind some people are not ready to change. Helping someone develop strategies to protect their safety and meet their basic needs may be where they are at now.
- What Can You Learn?
Believe it or not, your loved one who is struggling is your teacher. While it may be difficult and uncomfortable, tension is often where the real seeds of growth begin. Some of our most painful challenges (and lessons) come to us indirectly through someone we deeply care about.
The practice of learning from someone else’s story can create opportunities that might spark a desire to take up important changes in our own lives. Although we cannot make these experiences painless, we can take steps that can help us learn, grow, and do the best we can to empower others who may be experiencing similar struggles.
- Get connected
Depending on the issue faced by your loved one, you may need support too. Try finding a counselor, join a local support group, or talk to another friend or family member about what’s going on. Realizing that you’re not alone and that others are going through similar experiences is healing.
To learn more, listen to stories on Narrative4 understand that your voice, story, action and life matter, and that you have the power to change, rebuild and revolutionize systems.
Acknowledgements: These strategies were originally developed by PurposeFairy, a website that is a resource containing personal development articles. Another resource we used to write about this topic is a fact sheet called Supporting Someone with Opioid Addiction, which can be found on npaihb.org/opioid along with other resources for preventing, treating, and healing from opioid use disorder.