Helping someone who is suffering

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.             

                                                                Albert Camus

Forget everything you THINK you know about being helpful…I’m just going to be BLUNT here… I can almost guarantee you…what you THINK is being helpful… will NOT help one bit… and quite likely… it will just make things worse. 

I know from experience that people ( even though well meaning ) usually ALWAYS missed the mark regarding “helping” me when I was really down… I eventually learned to keep quiet when I was in my downhill spiral… and I learned to cope alone. To this day… I find it difficult to open up about my struggles.

First of all… I will talk about the things NOT to do… That list is probably just as long as the list of things TO DO… But… it is equally important to cover… In all honesty… doing the wrong thing is worse than doing nothing at all. It just adds frustration and unnecessary stress onto the person who is already feeling down and out. 

NEVER tell someone to just get over it… OH my goodness… that is like spitting at… and slapping someone across the face at the SAME time.  Honestly… if this is all you can come up with for a QUICK FIX of “SACRED” ADVICE… PLEASE… I beg of you… STAY HOME… and SHUT UP!!! ( sorry if this sounds rude… but seriously…. I will buy you the duct tape… just call me LOL ).

All joking aside… telling someone to get over a mood or episode is not only NOT HELPFUL… it is actually HARMFUL to the person who is suffering… because it causes extra stress and adds a ton load of guilt and shame. I could go on and on about this… but I think you get the picture… It’s just NOT COOL.

DO NOT ASSUME your help is wanted. Yep… you heard me… If you come into a situation THINKING you can fix everything… STOP!!! You are entering this with the wrong perspective… It is NOT you who is ill… it is someone else… Often times we try to force others to take our own medicine… Do not touch those curtains to let the sun in… don’t put on the tv so they can get their mind off their troubles… don’t tell them to get dressed or out of bed. This kind of “helping” is simply being a BULLY… and again… NOT HELPFUL.

DO NOT YELL or SCREAM at someone who is suffering… If you are losing patience with someone… WALK AWAY. This is not the time or place to be pulling rank on someone. 

Do NOT NAG… The definition of nagging is repeating something over and over again. It is annoying and again… USELESS. 

You can’t fix it so don’t even bother trying. This is not your job… or your responsibility. 

Ok… so…. Moving right along… These are the things that are actually HELPFUL.

ACCEPT that the person you care for and are wanting to help… is SICK… the same kind of sick as someone who has cancer and is lying in a hospital bed. Because mental illness is invisible… it is often mis-understood and mis-treated. 

BE KIND… BE COMPASSIONATE… BE GENTLE… If you enter into a situation with this kind of desire… you are at a good place to actually be helpful.

***REMEMBER*** If you are privileged enough to be entering into a private glimpse of someone at their worst… you had better be worthy of the position. If you enter in with judgement and disgust… you have absolutely FAILED your mission and lost the right to be there. 

ACCEPTING SOMEONE WHERE THEY’RE AT… EXACTLY where they are at… whether in a dirty bed… on the floor… on the couch… dressed in pyjamas… in a dirty apartment.

Take a deep breath and join them… sit with them… sit beside them… climb into the bed to be beside them… and just BE THERE… I will talk about this in another separate post because it is important. 

SILENCE… Sometimes silence is the most beautiful thing. JUST BE THERE with them… at their level.

( I learned this valuable lesson working on the streets with the homeless… My favorite thing to do was simply to pluck myself down on the sidewalk beside my  little “pet” drunk… and just sit with him… on the ground… sometimes he would rest his head on my shoulders… we would just hold hands and watch the people walk by. ) 

HELPING OUT AT HOME… If you desire to help someone with household chores that need to be done such as dishes etc… ASK FIRST… helping someone with cleaning can be a gift indeed… but again… this is a delicate matter… If you are visiting someone who is sick… and they don’t mind your help… then do a few things before you leave… it will be appreciated. 

PAMPERING THE SICK ONE… Bring cards… flowers… meals… gift baskets…. BRING it all… It may not seem like this is appropriate or even appreciated… but do it… THIS is the time to pamper someone… whether they want it or not… I assure you… they absolutely NEED the ACT of CARING… 

BE YOURSELF… Bring the patient… caring… gentle and kind version of YOU.

LEARN TO WEEP WITH SOMEONE… There is nothing more beautiful than someone who is moved by another’s pain… and allows themselves to FEEL IT.  

Part 2 coming Friday!

-Momma Bear



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