5 Ways to Support Those Who Are Hurting
Last week, in Does Your Heart Need Healing, we discussed how to recognize if your heart needs a little attention. We talked about how when our hearts hurt, our actions and attitudes typically reflect that pain.
Sometimes in the midst of our pain, we inadvertently hurt those we love. Our families, friends, co-workers, and spouses take the brunt of our anger and frustration because we haven't yet dealt with our pain. Either we don’t recognize the need for healing or we know we need it and avoid dealing with it. It seems easier to stay angry than to consciously dive into this messy work of self-reflection and healing. We know that process will bring emotions to the surface that honestly we just don't want to face.
So what happens when you're one of those family members, co-workers, or friends who notices our behaviors have changed? How do you recognize when we're hurting, and what can you do to support us during our time of need?
Through my expereince of losing Adeline, I have found the following to be true:
No Two People Are the Same - You'll first need to understand that pain, anger, and frustration manifest themselves differently in every person. There's not one set of behaviors that I can say, "If a person behaves this way, then you should consider if their heart needs healing." It doesn't work that way as much as I wish it did. What I can say is if the person you love is behaving differently, take a moment to step back and ask yourself, "What is he/she going through that may impact his/her behavior?"
Seeking to Understand - When someone is short with you, or mad, or rude, it's hard not to internalize their words and actions. It's difficult to stop and to think, "Maybe they have something going on in their lives and they aren't really mad at me." The trick here is to direct your thoughts to what's going on with the other person before our natural instinct to take offense to what the other person did or said. It's a shift from how the person is impacting me to what's going on with the other person. Taking the time to consider the other person's perspective means seeking to understand from where they come before making judgements or assumptions about why they are behaving that way.
Recognize the Pain - If you're close enough with the person (for example, a spouse or a family member) over time you might even be able to determine the other person's stress behaviors. We ALL have specific patterns when our hearts need attention. Last week, I mentioned I tend to disconnect from the world when my heart is hurting. I let everything fall to the wayside and hide from all responsibilities and relationships. My husband is different. He tends to want more structure and control. Neither is right or wrong; it’s how we each individually express our pain. Knowing that gives us clues to the state of each other's heart without the other having to speak directly about the pain.
Love and Respect - Here’s where the good stuff comes in. Looking at it from another's perspective tends to remove tension from the situation because you realize their attitudes and behaviors are not directed at you personally. All of a sudden, you put down your defensive walls and begin to realize the person isn't mad at you, they are hurting inside. There is so much peace in recognizing someone's pain without them having to say, “I’m hurting.” You're no longer concerned about how they are hurting you. You're now more concerned about the other person and might even ask what they need or just give them the space they need to heal. Sometimes we needs space; sometimes it's a shoulder to cry on; sometimes we just need a big hug.
It Takes Courage - Putting yourself out there and acknowledging the pain by asking someone what's going on takes courage. Your best intensions may not be well-received, but you've shown your hand, a helping hand, a hand open for assistance and compassion whenever they are ready. You've opened a door to the heart and human connection. Recognizing when others are hurting, and acknowledging it, is one of the most courageous things a person can do in a relationship. When we gently and openly discuss our pain, we begin to respect ourselves and our relationships.
I’m learning to cultivate a new skill, one that relies on noticing, asking, giving, and honoring. Because when it comes to matters of the heart, nothing is clear, clean, or in order. It’s often a mess; it's dirty and it’s hard work, but as we support each other we create this beautiful experience of true human connection. One that fosters a relationship that will last a lifetime. With this process we find connection and love, within ourselves, with each other, and, for me, with Adeline.
Is there someone in your life that needs your hand? Reach out to them this week and let them know you noticed their pain and you are available if there's anything you can do to help. Reach out, friends. Make those human connections, help others acknowledge their pain so we can all live more beautiful lives full of joy and connection.
There is much heart work to be done. Stay tuned for next week's post where we'll dive into how we do this thing called heart work.
Does life feel out of control? Do you feel overwhelmed and anxious? Check out this free guide on How to Calm the Chaos After Loss.