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It’s a huge source of discomfort when someone we love and care about is going through a hard time. It’s often difficult to know how to support our loved ones. In our endeavor to help, we can sometimes do the opposite and push the struggling person away with our well-meaning, but perhaps inappropriate methods. How to effectively support someone when they are struggling is an art form. Here are some tips to help you help others.

You Should…

….never use the word should! Even though a thousand people may have gone through a similar experience, how each person deals with it is personal. Unsolicited advice, though well-meaning, can make the struggling person feel infantile and invalidate them. Your opinion may be shared if asked for, if not, don’t share it.

Instead, ask…

….how can I best support you? They might not know, but you’re also not taking their power away by telling them what to do. Often when a person trusts you enough to share their struggle they have some ideas about how they may handle the situation. Being available to listen is the key to proper support.

Changing perspective…

….oh please don’t do this. We’ve all been there with the “It could have been worse” or “God only gives us what we can handle.” There is no surer way to never make a person come back to you for help or advice than to completely diminish the magnitude of what they are feeling or experiencing.


…validate their experience and what they are saying to you. People come to you for support because they trust you and value your presence. It’s an important job to at least try and get it right. Instead say something like “I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you, but I will help any way I can.” Show them they matter in the middle of whatever crisis is at hand.

Offer practical help…

…like doing laundry, picking their kids up from school or including them in your meal planning. These things can really make a huge difference during difficult times. Simple things like eating can fall by the wayside when someone is struggling and bringing dinner over can be a lifesaver.

…And lastly

…check in. From personal experience, I know that sometimes other people can avoid a crisis situation, which then becomes a lonely crisis situation for the person going through it. Never underestimate how important a check-in text a couple of times a week can mean to someone struggling. Even if the person seems to be handling everything perfectly, letting them know you’re there is priceless.

Empathy is always a good place to start if you’re really unsure about what to say or do. Thinking about how we would like to be supported ourselves if we were in a similar situation is a good place to start.





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