The experience of emotional distress like anxiety or depression is not pleasant. The first thing most of us do is shut down, shut up, and withdraw because the feelings are so painful we are afraid that we will be overwhelmed by the pain if we think about it or talk about it. “Maybe it will just go away,” I say.
But it doesn’t just go away. Even worse, our loved ones feel confused because of our silence and fuels their fear that talking will cause more hurt by “opening and reopening painful memories.” We fear that this pain will overwhelm everyone.
Silence is the enemy. Because it is in sharing and telling the story of our pain that we actually become stronger and more resilient as we put words and feeling together. “I don’t want you to solve my problem. I just need you to give me a safe space to tell my story.”
It is in this safe and sacred space that we discover a path to healing and joy – a unique pathway that will not be known or discovered unless I am offered the opportunity to share and tell my story to another who is empathetic, open, and non-judgmental, and unless I take the risk to trust this one.
So what do I do if someone I love begins telling a painful story? Listen! Do not try to suggest solutions. Simply be there extending love and healing from your own heart. Give this one you love the space to open and explore. It is in the opening you will discover together a pathway toward healing, health, and joy. This is the spiritual aspect of opening and listening, because in the telling and receiving of this story lies a hidden invitation for help and guidance to come in surprising ways. It is in the gift of offering this sacred space to this loved one in pain that the storyteller feels safe to take the risk to talk. It is in the love offered to listen with unconditional love where there is healing.
Here are some ways to invite someone to open and share, to let this one you love and care about know that you are willing to listen and that you appreciate the risk they are taking to tell their story to you.
From the website: www.helpguide.org
Don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. People who experience emotional distress tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.
Ways to start the conversation:
I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.
Questions you can ask:
When did you begin feeling like this?
Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
How can I best support you right now?
Have you thought about getting help?
Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that he or she will understand and respond to while in a distressed mind frame.
What you can say that helps:
You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.
You are important to me. Your life is important to me.
Tell me what I can do now to help you.
It’s all in your head.
We all go through times like this.
Look on the bright side.
You have so much to live for why do you want to die?
I can’t do anything about your situation.
Just snap out of it.
What’s wrong with you?
Shouldn’t you be better by now?
This is a great gift that is given – received - and shared by listening and telling the story and in the process a new story is born that gives encouragement and energy and a new belief that life can be better than it is now. Tell more stories! Give more space for stories to be told and received together.
In the telling of this story of pain look for a new story of encouragement, a new way of life. Help this one you love discover a new story for themselves that can begin to replace and heal the old story and lead to a new beginning.
Remember that we are here for you 24/7:
Call us – 1-800-567-4673 (Crisis and Information Line)
Text us - #741741
Come to see us – We Care Regional Crisis Center in Lima or at our Access Centers in Lima, St. Mary’s, Kenton, and Wapakoneta (this summer)
Visit us on the web – www.wecarepeople.org