How to support someone Feeling Sad

One of the cornerstones of our physical and emotional wellbeing is our ability to experience, express and process emotional experiences. Many of these occasions could be dealt with quickly if given the right space and support and would actually serve a person by being a point of personal growth and increasing all important self-knowledge. If each experience however, isn’t dealt with as we go along, we get something which I like to call ‘experience stacking’ where benign almost harmless issues ‘stack up’ and become something greater, heavier and much more detrimental. They develop into depression, anxiety and various mental health disorders. Wouldn’t it be great if we could nip these terrible afflictions in the bud?

We are currently part of the ‘comfortable class’ shielded from many of the natural ups and downs of daily existence with instant stimuli, gratification and entertainment. If there’s one thing I’ve observed over the years as a therapist, it’s that we are particularly bad at coping and dealing with uncomfortable emotions, especially sadness. Many people are terrified of feeling sad and this may be more so because of the conditioned associations that come along with the emotion. Sadness can easily become intertwined with experiences such as feeling alone, being misunderstood or by being made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of what they are experiencing and expressing.

At the other end of the spectrum, you get a lot of ‘public grieving’ on social media, which although can increase feelings of support, it more likely takes you away from your centre and true emotions and turns it into an unhealthy desire for attention. Very few of us seem to get taught healthy ways to express things like sadness or how to correctly support someone else when they’re feeling sad. The key points to remember when being with an upset person;

- They don’t need you to fix their problem or to ‘cheer them up’ in that moment

- They need reassurance that it’s ok to feel what they’re feeling

- Don’t interrupt or regale them with a tale of when you felt similar

- Just listen to them with every ounce of your being

- Use phrases like ‘I’m with you’, ‘It’s ok’ and ‘I’m listening’

- Only when you’re absolutely sure they are done, you can gently break their state with a more light hearted comment or observation

If you’re the person feeling sad, the key points would be to remember;

- Showing emotion takes courage and is not a sign of weakness

- Everyone feels this way sometimes, especially the people who look like they don’t

- Be prepared to sit with it for a little while don’t just reach for the alcohol, chocolate or other distraction

- Being alone is a choice, someone somewhere is willing to listen to you

- Reach out to individuals not a social media platform

- Ideally seek out someone you trust and just be straight with how you’re feeling

- If you don’t get the supportive response you’re looking for, it’s their inability to cope that’s the issue, not you. The most unhelpful responses actually come from a good place because they are desperate to help or fix and they panic because they feel helpless and don’t understand how to be there for you.

I hope this short article has been helpful and I have been able to get you to look at things in a slightly different light. Please share the information and the practices with anyone you think would benefit.

From the heart, Alexander

Alexander J.P. Boylan BSc(Hons) MBAcC is an accomplished Therapist, Tutor, Writer and Wellbeing enthusiast with over 13 years’ experience in the field of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

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