What could I do?

We’ve all “been there” haven’t we? Found ourselves in circumstances which, either by poor choice, impulsive actions, or reasons beyond our control, are seemingly overpowering us? We may be stressing out over the perceived outcome, or the process necessary to achieve finality, or perhaps both.  We may be emotionally sidetracked by revisiting the history involved.

It is at those times when friendly support is really necessary, and usually appreciated. So often however, that gesture of support is seemingly not offered, with the resulting perspective that you are “on your own”.

Stress, in all its many variations, can so easily dictate irrational and/or self-harming actions. In extreme cases, life can take on a meaning of total futility, and the resulting solution can be devastating. In many cases  however, the effects of the stress can be reduced by simply ensuring that the person does not believe that they are on their own.

The issue would seem to be not that one does not have good friends, but that those friends simply do not know what to say when confronted with difficult and perhaps sensitive situations. It is an insecurity that dictates ” I have nothing to offer my friend who is having issues.” It is a lack of forethought that dictates “What could I possibly say that would help?” It could be a lack of experience if you have lead a totally stress free life (I don’t know anybody like that!), and then you may be excused for having no concept of what would really be appreciated and, perhaps, necessary.

In what can often appear to be a very complex set of circumstances, a simple “If there is anything I can do……” may make a huge difference. It does not take any skill that we don’t already possess, and may produce significant results. In so many cases there is nothing you will be able to do, but that reality is secondary. The primary goal is to simply say that they are not on their own with their issues. If there is a spiritual awareness, then a simple offer to pray for them could have so much meaning.

If we have a friend who is clearly having difficulties coping with their challenges, then we all have the ability to assure them that they are not on their own. We all have the ability to listen while they express themselves. We all have the ability to say and/or show… that we care about them.

The whole concept of caring is really nothing more than thinking “If I were in that situation,  how would I like my friends to  treat me?” For many of us, our response would be “I wouldn’t want to bother my friends. They couldn’t help anyway!”  My experience has been that while that is a common response, the question “Would I like to be ignored, and feel totally isolated, while dealing with a major crisis?” results in a quite different answer!

To my friends who are currently going through some very difficult and traumatic times, you already know how to get in touch with me if necessary so… if there is anything I can do… !

32 thoughts on “What could I do?

  1. Yes, it can be heartbreaking to see a close person suffering and still we stand beside them and feel helpless. As yous said, we can always offer support. The most important part is that they don’t feel left alone. That can already change something.

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  2. Very insightful post, Colin … the difficulty is often, at least for me, knowing how much or little to say, and what tone. I have one friend who suffers bouts of severe depression, and she rails at me for trying to be upbeat and give her something to smile about. Eventually, after a number of attempts that are rebuffed, I am afraid to say anything. It is not that I don’t care, but rather that I fear I am making an already bad situation worse. It is, for the one trying to help, a balancing act. Your post gives me much food for thought … thanks!

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    • Totally understand your position Jill. Try and look at it from your friend’s perspective. She is feeling totally overwhelmed, and you come along with a big smile and say something like “Cheer up! Things will get better!” This is really not much different to telling a non-religious person not to worry because God loves them. It is no doubt well intended, but rather non-productive. In your circumstances, simply admitting to your friend that you really do not know what to say is a good start. Perhaps you could follow that with a simple “You know I am here for you. If there is anything that I can do to help you, you only have to ask.” If your friend is not too talkative, then rather than feel uncomfortable, excuse yourself. “I have to go now but call me if you want to talk.” or “How about I call you this evening just to see how you are doing?” I would suggest that the greatest help any friend can give is not trying to resolve their problems, because you invariably cannot, but rather just validate their existence by reinforcing the fact that they are not alone in their turmoil and that you are there to help wherever you can. If you understand the basis for her depression and can steer her towards some professional help… bonus, but lack of insight need not prevent a friend from helping a friend.

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    • Hi Madelyn – Glad that you liked the Post. Compassion and some sense of understanding are so important, as you and I both appreciate. Somehow that message gets complicated and lost in the process. So many people step back from assisting for a variety of reasons but, in this context, because they cannot relate to the experience. If only they realized that they do not need to be able to relate to any given circumstances. All they need to do is hold out a hand and say “I’m here! You are not alone.”

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      • So true. Simply listening with empathy can heal a lot of hurt.

        I worry about those “can’t relate ” folks – don’t they read? Go to the theatre?

        I can relate to a lot of things I have only experienced through characters in books, plays and stories. I wonder if that is sometimes simply an excuse to look away without guilt.

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  3. Great post Colin. True friends are few and far between. Sometimes it is just good to talk to someone and get their view on it, or have them simply listen as by voicing thing aloud, we can get things into a better perspective.

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    • Thank you Chris but, technically, I try not to give advice… but rather offer suggestions. It is important to me that “the person” makes the decisions, rather than just doing what I say. (Self-esteem and all that!) 🙂

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