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3 Key Pillars for Supporting a Loved One

Updated: Aug 2

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical, legal, or health advice and is not a substitute for mental health services

In any relationship, there will be ups and downs.

Sometimes, you will find that you have trouble coping and, at other times, the person you care about can be struggling.

Feeling hopeless and helpless can naturally happen during these periods but hopefully you find some comfort in knowing that just as your loved one will do their best to be there for you, there are some things you can do to also express your support for them.

This article describes three key pillars of support that can be part of the foundation of a strong and caring relationship. You can use these pillars as a guide in your efforts to be there for your loved one when they need you most.

Stay Positive

When a loved one is feeling low, it can be hard for them to see their way out of a difficult situation. They may feel confused, a little lost, and not sure where to go next.

Your encouragement and support can be a beacon of light and may help them think about their challenge in a new way, giving them hope for change.

While you are spreading hope, it is also important at this time to of course validate your loved one's feelings and let them know that their concerns, worries, and fears matter and that it is understandable that they are feeling the way they do.

Be Patient

You might feel frustrated at times when consoling someone — you could feel triggered by something they said or did, have your own stressors and worries, or feel overwhelmed with the task of helping them.

It’s understandable that you, too, will have lots going on in your mind and in your life. Set healthy boundaries that work best for you to make sure you are taking care of yourself and offering support in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your own mental health. As we often hear when we’re about to take off on a plane, you need to secure your own oxygen mask (your mental health in this context) before you can fully invest in helping another.

Also, consider that your loved one may have a long road of twists and turns as they try to improve their own well-being. Even though you may hope and wish that they get better quickly, their recovery, coping, and healing will be on their own timeline and journey. Give them the space that they need to reach their own conclusions and decisions.

And let them come to you as they need — they may not reach out as often as you hope they will but they will do so when they feel they need a listening ear, guidance, or support. And, when they do ask for these things, trust that you will be the best support person you can be for them.

Remain Present

Getting distracted, feeling your mind wander, and thinking intermittently about your own concerns can understandably happen at times. We’re all human and this is completely normal. However, there are some ways to manage this to help you stay focused on your loved one.

One suggestion is that you try to notice when you find your attention shifting, acknowledge it is happening, and then try to gently bring your attention back to your loved one at your own pace.

By building your awareness of when your mind is wandering, letting the thoughts pass, and then refocusing on your loved one, you are engaging in an intentional and mindful approach to staying connected with the person you care about.

Your efforts at remaining present will be challenging at times and that’s totally ok. The fact that you are attending carefully to your loved one and making a conscious effort to be there for them will help them feel understood, valued, heard, and appreciated.

Wishing you well on your mental health journey.

Davina Tiwari MSW, RSW, CSFT

Registered Social Worker and Certified Solution Focused Therapist

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