Support and Encouragement

Friend
A Friend, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

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True friends and family fly to you when you don’t have the ability to fly yourself.  They support, comfort and encourage you physically and emotionally.  ~ Fergiemoto

Finch (right):  “I’m so discouraged.”
Junco (left):  “I’m there for you.  How can I help?  You can talk to me…I really mean it.”

Remember that close friends and relatives struggling with chronic/invisible illnesses or pain need us to be there for them.  Here are some ways to show support and encouragement:

  • Slow down.  Listen with your whole body and 100% of your attention.  Look at them and acknowledge you are truly hearing what they are saying.  To the person talking, this is more valuable than all the gold in the world.  Never underestimate the power of holding the space for someone who needs a listening ear. You may be their life-line.
  • Let them know you are truly there for them and that you are listening.  Silence when a person needs to know someone is really there can lead them to feel lonely.
  • Avoid interrupting them while they are talking.  Let them finish speaking before you respond.  When you are talking, you are not listening.
  • Allow the person to feel just as they are.  Avoid judgment, lecturing, criticizing, ridiculing, etc.  Telling them to tough it out, quit complaining, pull it together, they have a low pain tolerance, they’re crazy, it’s not a big deal, or threatening to stay away can lead to negative results.  Sometimes the pain inside is much more intense than the pain they are showing.
  • Be there with them, physically and emotionally.  Don’t try to fix it.
  • Provide a shoulder to cry on.  Let them cry and vent.
  • Hold their hand in a firm, compassionate and loving way.  A loving touch is extremely powerful.
  • Give them a real hug… the one with your body, mind and heart.  I’m usually able to notice empty hugs…and empty words.
  • Don’t be a stranger.  People who truly care are present during good and bad times.  In one of my pain psychology sessions, I learned that people with chronic ailments, chronic pain, and undiagnosed conditions are often very lonely.  Many people tend to stay away because they can’t or don’t want to deal with it.  Also, the person struggling may fall behind others who are continuing their normal pace, which adds to feeling lonely.  Realize it is still important for them to have family and social contact and slow down sometimes to meet them at their level.  But don’t wait too long to do this.  If you were present while they were healthier, yet not present during their struggles, they may not trust you are a true friend/family and the relationship may suffer as a result.
  • Make sure your actions match your words.  For example, telling someone they can talk to you about anything, then getting angry with, ignoring them or criticizing them leads to distrust.
  • Try putting yourself in their shoes.  Feel their experience, emotions and pain.  Be empathetic.  Think about things that can ease their pain.
  • Offer your help.  It’s difficult for people to ask for help, so check in with them regularly.  Ask how they are and see what they might need help with.  Don’t rely on other people to do this.  If you care, show it.  The more support, the better.
  • Email, call, send cards or letters, or do things you know they like.  Simple acts of kindness can help lift their spirits not just at the beginning of their struggles, but also throughout.  Sometimes they may feel forgotten after the initial outpouring of concern.  The contact from others may lessen, but their struggles continue.
  • Educate yourself about their condition.
  • Be their advocate.  Help them by standing up for them.  Don’t suggest or allow others to say their condition or thinking is crazy.
  • Be aware that something seemingly minor to you may be a major issue for them.
  • …and many more.

These are just a handful of ways to show support and encouragement.  Are there others you can add to this list?  Please share.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ahardyperspective
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 00:24:47

    love the color isolation on this

    Reply

  2. buddhafulkat
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 01:55:43

    Sage advice! I bookmarked this to read again as a reminder for myself =)

    Reply

  3. TBM
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 02:01:34

    Great suggestions. I think a lot of people concentrate on trying to fix things and lose sight that someone just wants someone to listen to them and validate their feelings.

    Reply

  4. Meanderer
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 10:43:53

    Beautiful image and an excellent list. Sounds very much like the Carl Rogers school of thought. Listening without judging is so important. Many thanks Fergie.

    Reply

  5. Cat Forsley
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 13:32:45

    AMAZING ……
    SUCH DEEP WISDOM HERE ……

    Reply

  6. Erin, Bella Bleue
    Mar 21, 2012 @ 18:08:26

    Thank you for you words. It is very true how much we need to have someone who is present for us, and who remembers us–takes time to make us feel special and who helps us through our challenges in life. Thank you also for the reference. 🙂 Blessings on your journey, Erin, Bella Bleue

    Reply

  7. granbee
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 16:17:05

    Oh, Fergie, you and these dear birdies all affirm my decision last evening at family night at my church to just listen, listen, listen–and hug a lot and smile a lot! Your wonderful post today really includes all the actions I focus on practicing and making firm habits during this Lenten Season! Bless you!

    Reply

  8. Lindy Lee
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 14:40:18

    Advice to be heeded…

    Reply

  9. MzLoveViewz
    Mar 24, 2012 @ 22:59:37

    I concur, words to live by.

    Reply

  10. eof737
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 07:05:43

    Well said… and the birds and the bees know it. 😉

    Reply

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