By Monica C. Voskamp
Giving a hand up.
There have been times I just needed a hand up. Sometimes I had hands reaching to me (supportive people), sometimes I didn’t. The times I did…well, I can’t spell my gratitude.
Probably the biggest times have been in anxiety, depression, and life crisis situations (ie toxic abusive relationships, medical illness.)
It’s caused an ocean surge in me to GIVE a hand up to others…but also to empower those who aren’t sure how.
Here’s 5 ways you can give a hand up without crushing an already fragile person.
Just listen. You don’t have to have an answer. Sometimes people don’t want (or can handle) an answer. Sometimes there isn’t even an answer…and both parties know that. We often feel the need to give that word of advice, instruction etc. But sometimes the best gift is listening.
Simply say: I‘m listening. And if they pause in their conversation you can say: I’m still here; I’m listening.
-RESPECT. There is a time for talking too. However, ASK. It’s simple to do really. 😉
‘Would you like me to tell you my advice/say something or would you like me to listen?‘
This is respectful. Don’t think of what you would like in the situation. ASK: ‘How can I best help you right now?’
They may give an answer, they may not. That you asked is meaningful. You can offer ways of support. Become attentive to the little things that make the person smile or provide some relief. (Ie: flowers, a gift card for a massage or their favorite coffee shop, a prepared meal, a written note, a favorite snack food–those are some of my smilers. 😉 ) It’s another way of ‘listening.’
It can be hard to watch and hear someone go through a crisis, an illness or deep personal struggle. Truthfully, it can be draining on both parties.
You love this person/ they love you. We can tend to go overboard for the ones we love and forget self-care. Make clear boundaries to them & yourself.
For the person struggling, know some key phrases (here’s examples)
–“I would like today alone, but I appreciate your offer. “
–“I don’t feel like talking right now; I would like —.”
–” I don’t want to talk about my struggles right now; I just want to spend time with you.”
–“I’m tired and feeling overwhelmed right now; I’m all done talking.”
For the support person, it can be exhausting for you. It IS an exertion for BOTH parties. Keep yourself healthy too! Make your phrases gently toned yet conveying clear boundaries. You get to be honest too.
Example: If you or they tend to call (or visit) frequently, you may need an emotional or mental break from the situation: Set a day/time where you have a break.
-“Today I need a quiet day. I’m not available today, but if you need to talk to someone — (remind them of who else they can call.)
–“I’m not up to talking or listening right now; I can talk with you —.”
-“I turn off my phone at night but I’ll read your messages in the morning.” This lets them know you’re not ignoring them, and letting them know you still care.
-“I can hear your very upset. It’s hard for me to hear your words right now because of this intense emotion you are experiencing.
“Can you express yourself in a calmer tone?” (if not then–>) “I would like to talk later when you feel calmer.”
Both sides have limits of the emotional energy they can interact with. It’s needful to respect our limits and set boundaries with each other.
No such thing (rightfully!) Yes, generally there is someone in a healthier place in life, but you both hold equal value and unique gifts in this situation.
Co-dependency (and burnout) can be a fast crippling trap. You want to empower, not disable each other. Realize you are giving each other valuable opportunities; this is a growing time for each of you. It is easy to think the supporter person is the superior; they are not!
Supporter person remember to VALIDATE the struggling person’s worth. They are opening your eyes to new understanding their situation. Thank them for the privilege to journey alongside (& together.)
It takes the person in crisis A LOT of vulnerability and trust to disclose themselves in this fragmented period of life. Recognize their brave, courage.
Second, don’t be afraid to tell them your struggles! Yes, it is hard for a person in crisis to take on more. They are already dealing with their own hurricane. Stay mindful of that, BUT (generally) they truly DO want to bless, support you too. It’s not all about them. The weight and extremity of their situation may make you hesitant to share your own daily experiences. Go back to your boundaries and respect. It could be:
‘Are you able to listen to me?’
‘I need a listening ear or advice in this situation I’m struggling with.’
‘Can you give me advice?’
Don’t be afraid to ASK them for help. You remind them you are human. You remind them: You are not above them; they are not below you. The struggling person is capable of holding your hand too. They have a special strength of their own. Honor that strength.
–NON-JUDGEMENT. Let them be where they are. Respect their journey. Don’t judge them or say words of belittlement for where they are. This is only detrimental.
I’m remembering 2 phrases I was told during a time of depression and fighting illness.
One was this: You may just have to accept this is the way its going to be and not expect any better. (Talk about a deeper plunge into depression. )
The other statement: You’re a hopeless case. (Talk about discouragement in my pursuit of health!)
Lol, sheesh. Ridiculous eh? But, those were legit things people told me in the past.
In my vulnerable state, I took the words close to heart. Both of those phrases were NOT empowering. Even if I had an illness that was incurable…that does NOT kill dreams, spirit, or ability for better. That “think before you talk” phrase comes in handy. 🙂
And if you flub up (either side), acknowledge and take ownership. We are suppose to be on the same team and doing what will propel each other forward.
Put it all together and look at your: HANDS.
Think of hands. Think of the mutual power it takes to reach and pull. The one grasping out to the upper hand DOES use strength. They are latching on to that hand with all they’ve got left! Their reaching requires strength, brave and trust.
And the one extending the hand (of listening, respect, non-judgement etc) it takes a new strength for you to pull them upwards and stand your ground. It’s a strength you didn’t have before. You’ve received an opportunity to develop this muscle.
The thing is this: It takes 2. It takes both people’s hands. You help each other achieve greater things together. Giving ‘a hand up’ holds more value than people realize.
To those 2 hands merged together, know I’m proud of you both. I’m cheering you as you climb your new mountains. One step at a time. One unified hand at time.