‘Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.’ ~Norman B. Rice
If you have a friend or loved one who is experiencing hopelessness or depression, it can be difficult to know exactly what to say or do. While there isn’t any one magic thing to say that will alleviate their pain, there are many ways to offer support.
‘Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.’ ~Mother Teresa
The best way to offer help is to listen, validate their experience, and provide acceptance. By offering this type of support, you can help put things into a more balanced perspective. In addition, your offer of companionship lets them know that they are not completely alone. They have someone with them even as they attempt to find their ways through a very difficult and dark period.
Some helpful hints to lovingly support someone are:
- to listen while making the person feel un-threatened.
- Show them with words and actions that they can trust you.
- Let them know that you are available.
- Use your positive energy and retain inner hope that change can occur.
- Just because they don’t believe they can get through this doesn’t mean that you have to agree with their point of view.
Here are some words to say that will show your loving support, while also allowing the person to feel and understand what they are feeling:
“You are important to me even when you are feeling down.”
People who are feeling hopeless often think they are weak for feeling this way. They may believe they have a character flaw. Reassure your friend or loved one that you can understand why they might be thinking these types of thoughts, but in your eyes it isn’t true. Offer comfort as you speak from your heart and tell them that you know for a fact that depression or hopelessness isn’t caused by personal weakness, laziness, or because they have bad karma. This statement of compassionate truth validates their experience while also offering them another point of view. Their experience is a legitimate human experience.
“I may not understand what you’re experiencing, but I do know that there is always meaning in suffering.”
Without trivializing their experience, you can offer a model of acceptance that may help the person begin to accept their experience. Accepting one’s suffering is often a first step to claiming it, becoming familiar with it, and potentially moving beyond it. Don’t claim that you know the meaning of their pain. Let them know that you wish they weren’t hurting, and yet you have faith that this depression is valid and meaningful.
“Would you go outside with me for a short walk?”
The hurt inside and the struggle just to get through the day makes many hopeless or depressed people want to isolate inside the safety of their home or bed. Offer to take the person outside. They will most likely resist your offer. Don’t be pushy, but if at all possible be persistent. Fresh air and a change of scenery can help them breathe, can give them access to the healing power of nature, and can get them through at least part of the day.
“Can I sit with you a while? It’s okay if we don’t talk.”
Making small talk or taking care of you socially is often an impossible task to a depressed or hopeless person. Even though they are feeling lonely and isolated, they choose to be alone because the thought of keeping someone else entertained requires too much energy. Offer to be with a person and suggest sitting together outdoors, watching television, or reading together. Reassure them in advance that you have no expectations of being entertained. Don’t feel the need to fill up the silence. What is often healing or helpful is your willingness to sit comfortably, even in silence, without expectation.
“I’ve noticed lately that you have been down. Do you want to share your feelings with me? I’d like to listen.”
Listening with compassion to a person sharing dark or despairing feelings can be difficult for most people to handle. It’s a normal tendency to want to talk, give advice, or offer solutions. However, your ability to listen is immensely healing. When you give someone the freedom and safety to speak, they are able to hear their own thoughts, often for the first time. Validating and reflective listening (telling them back what you think you heard them say) allows them to hear, in a new way, what is going on in their heads. Listening (not fixing or offering advice) creates movement and allows a fresh perspective to be gained.
Effective paraphrasing reflections that allow the person to feel heard and understood include:
“Is there a way you can help me see how it is for you?”
“Let me see if I understand. What you want me to recognize is…”
“That’s a good point. You feel your life is not worth living…”
“I can see that you feel strongly about that. Can you tell me more?”
“I can understand how you could see it like that.” Then paraphrase how you think they see things.
“When bad things have happened to you before, how did you cope?”
They may not be able to come up with an answer, but asking this type of question may trigger them to remember that they have had bad times in the past and they did somehow get through those times. This type of question may help them mobilize their inner resources. It can also help them remember that there was a time before depression and hopelessness and that there is hope for change in the future.
Let your friend or loved one ask the “Why me?” question.
Don’t answer their question, but instead encourage them to voice their beliefs. If they fall silent, one way to lead them beyond the, “Why me?” question is to say, “I don’t know why you are suffering, but I am sure it is not because you are being punished or because you’ve done something wrong. What could we do right now to help you feel better?”
“How can I be most helpful to you?”
Most likely they won’t have an answer. Perhaps they have lost interest in things they used to enjoy. Many tasks or hobbies feel overwhelming. And they may have trouble thinking, recalling things, or even focusing. However, be persistent. You never know how your interest and compassion will make a difference in their journey.
Now that you are verbally equipped to lovingly support those in your life, go out there into the world and look through your heart. You will see how many troubled souls walk the streets of this big world. You might not be able to heal or help them all, but you can try one soul at a time.
The immense satisfaction that comes from supporting and helping someone with their problems is beyond putting into words. All I can say, is that its a feeling of pure divinity working with you and through you.
The most recent message I got after helping and healing a troubled soul, “Thank you magic genie! I feel hopeful. I have not slept so soundly in years.”
Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking “What’s in it for me?” ~Brian Tracy
But support without expectation. The moment expectation enters this divine equation, all the magic and love fly right out the window.
One of my favorite quotes and also my mantra for life : “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” ~Mother Teresa
What are YOUR thoughts on this topic? How do YOU lovingly support other souls? Do you agree with me….that we all need to do our part in lovingly supporting the ones who need it, rather than turn a blind eye? Please share your thoughts, comments and questions in the comments below. Your presence here is truly appreciated!
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46 thoughts on “How to lovingly support someone who is experiencing Hopelessness and Depression”
This is such a caring and thoughtful blog post. I give you major kudos for being so vigilant and precise.
You made some great points, one of which is going out and helping others. As a clinician I find that if you can not make your job helping others, then you can volunteer. Not only are you enabling someone to receive help and feel support, you get so much more back.
Listening is an amazing and often overlooked skill. Nowadays everything is “on demand” and we miss out on the human factor. Having an arsenal of questions for comfort is so pertinent to helping others.
Thank you for this post.
Its lovely that you spoke about volunteering, especially since you might not get enough of these opportunities in your regular day. And you’re so right, in giving we shall receive ten folds 🙂
I’m very glad you stopped by to read and share your thoughts. May we all become proficient listeners!
Some very good reminders here. Sounds like you are a good friend & listener. I believe deep listening and acceptance are the best tools in this situation.
Thank you for your compliments 🙂 but I believe we are all good listenersn just overly indulgent in the wrong kind of listening that’s all.
Acceptance is such a powerfully simple way to support someone. When we accept we do not judge.
Thank you again for your beautiful comment here.
I like to “see” depressed people with a smile on their face. I silently wish them well and hold a positive vision for them. Nice and helpful post!
Lovely seeing you here!
I do love your ‘smile’ vision. Its the way we all need to live..so that the world may truly heal.
Thank you so much for sharing your vision here.
Lots of love~
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Thank you for spreading the supportive and positive word.
What a beautiful post. I do believe when we give, we usually end up with so much more from the experience. It’s always nice to reach out to someone who needs your help, even more so if you have gone through some similar situations. It’s a wonderful feeling to leave a bit of goodness behind.
You’re so right that from giving, the receiving is not just on the opposite end…we get so much from the mere intentional thought of it. And whether we understand or not, we have all been is a not so happy situation at some point…
Thank you so much for sharing your lovely thoughts here.
I loved this post. I know I have been in dark places and nothing beats someone’s love and support at these times. Depression can feel very lonely as you creep into a deep dark hole. A helping hand to get you out of this place is a gesture of a kindred spirit.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. Its brave of you to admit and realize that you were in a dark place. Often the admittance and acceptance isd half the battle won.
If I can help you further in any way,pls don’t hesitate to ask.
Beautiful. The potent combination of being love, being present, and listening.
Something I have been practicing recently is asking “How may I best serve you?” (wisdom passed to me from a friend). This allows me to share my energy in the most effective way.
My darling Joy,
Your combination of being love is definately potent..infact super potent 🙂
And I do love – “How may I best serve you?” It gives such a feeling of immense openness and possibility.
May you continue to shine dear one…for in your light there is healing.
Love you much my butterflies and glitter sister~
This was fabulous. I actually have a dear friend who is experiencing the dark days of a major depression. You don’t know how much I needed to read your directions right now. I was at a loss….he’s stopped wanting to talk.
Thank you – thank you.
I’m so happy this post will serve its true purpose when you talk to your friend. May this friend be helped and healed soon.
Thank you for your heartfelt comment here.
So much love~
This is so beautiful! It’s not an easy topic to tackle, but you have done so with clarity and wisdom. I’m so tired of the “get over it” attitude that abounds on the internet today. It’s rarely that easy for anyway. But the kind of acceptance, understanding, and love you offer here, can create that little opening for the sun to start shining through.
Its easier to say ‘get over it’ than to sit and spend some energy on the person in need. Very often this little energy spent, has immense healing effects on our own heart and soul.
I’m super glad you liked this topic. There is more to be said…all in good time 🙂
So much love~
My dear wonderful Zeenat!
How refreshing it is! Being discussed in this post is that of what *We* can do in healing techniques to another without emphasis on the ‘Self’.
Seems like there is a want to always better ourselves, and there is no lack of people offering ways for us to do it.
Don’t get me wrong…I came to this community originally as one who spent and lost so much helping my mentally challenged brother. It was after he finally left this world, and when I was totally spent internally and externally that I came across Gail Brenner’s site. I will always love her for her peaceful, patient listening (she needed the patience of Mother Teresa with me). The wise woman that she is let me go at the precise right moment so that I could once again re-gather my strength to go on with my life head held up.
I reflected on Sandra’s comment above regards “get over it”. My immediate thought was…back in the ‘Old Days’ (could be ‘The Wild West’) people had to “get over it” quick for survival…but they did have more time to talk and listen to one another for counsel before the ‘attempt’ to “get over it”. These days we have so many distractions. Time is compressed into so many fast pulsating daily experiences. How many of us really even think about being there for another for over more than what will impede our need to get things done? But really if ‘We’ at least listen a bit more than what we would view as limiting our ‘to do list’. Look at the healing the billions of humans can do for one another.
And yes, there are days that I do see an exceptional amount of genuine caring going on…so… like some of our wildlife, that I see returning because of protective laws and awareness, perhaps the *goodness* of the social media community is improving our human compassion for one another.
And yes, I am sure that even Mother Teresa needed not only God’s ear, but also that of a human ear to listen kindly on the days she was completely over whelmed…on the days she had doubt…on the days that human suffering and tragedy was just too much.
I gave a fellow worker a ride home yesterday. As we walked to my truck we passed many homeless camped out. My co-worker made it a point to greet these people with a respectful hello each time we came across them. Some of our conversation during the drive was actually relevant to this post. My co-worker said “Thank you brother” upon exiting my truck. The balk of the population is really never that far away from some life circumstance that could ‘depressingly’ put one onto the street or locked up in their home…so nurture your compassion for one that is down on their luck, or one that is deeply depressed. Offer some of Zeenat’s wise and loving methods on some one you know, and on a total stranger.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
— attributed to Plato
Thank you for giving us so much to work with Z!
I do love that quote by Plato! We are all on a journey and its full of ups and downs. While in these downs if there be a loving shoulder around…it makes those downs easy too..dont you think 🙂
I love what you have shared and thank you fro being so true to who you are. You are a good man right down to your thoughts.
And thanks to Gail you are the star of my comments for sure 🙂
Everyone needs some loving right ….healing is just such a beautiful byproduct of loving support.
Thank you dearest for your loving comment here. I so appreciate your energy.
What a warm and loving post! One of my life-goals is related to the quote: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” ~Mother Teresa. A hug and kindness works such wonders when someone is sad. Most times, gestures express so much more than words. Showing love is so easy.
Hugs to you, dear Zeenat. I hope we will meet. With love, Vidya
(Your kindness via the link is very much appreciated!)
Any act of loving kindness goes a long way….however small it may be. How wonderful is it that you have one of your lifes goals attached to that particular Mother Teresa quote! We must be soul sisters 🙂
I do hope we meet soon too….Tell me when you are visiting Mumbai..and we have to meet up.
Lots of love always~
Beautiful Zeenat, this is one of my favorite posts from you yet. I read each word intently, and plan to bookmark it. I don’t always know what to say, but I’ve learned that just “holding space” for someone can have profound effects. As you so lovingly pointed out, letting someone feel what they’re feeling can be instrumental in allowing them to own what’s happening, and then (if/when they’re ready) move on from it.
You are BRILLIANT! I’m so grateful for these words and your post today.
My Joyful Angel,
You make my heart smile. Thank you! Thank you! I am so so happy you liked this article. I often think of things to write about that might serve a purpose..and I guess this is going to do that for sure. I do hope it does. There are so many troubled souls in our world, if we each embrace this attitude of loving support…ahh the world would be so healed.
I am grateful for your presence here and everytime you come here…your and your words shine!
Lots of glittery love my soul sister~
Truly a wonderful post. I think it can be the little things that matter most. Don’t feel as if you need to be grand in your offering of support. A smile, a touch, a few encouraging words can be all it takes.
I agree with you completely! The grander we think we need to get, the more damage we end up doing. Simple and small is the best. My favorite gesture ofcourse is a smile 🙂
And your smile well….super bright is understating it 🙂
Thank you fro your lovely comment here.
Another beautiful post Zeenat! Sometimes listening and being deeply present for someone who is trudging through ‘darkness’ is all that is necessary. If we do this then we will instinctively know how to best help them. You are such a beautiful soul!
I so so love it that you talk about ‘instinctively knowing’ what to do when you truly listen from the heart. There is no way we can go wrong then. Oh and you are beautiful too….so beautiful to know so much and say so much …i do read a lot between the lines here today from you 🙂 …..
Sending you lots of love~
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Another magical post Zeenat. You had such wonderful lessons to help us help those in need in this post. I just wanted to keep reading and reading.
It made me think of those who have been there for me when times were hard. Such people had tons of patience and just heard me out. And then they genuinely helped me to change my perspectives. I believe one of the greatest things in life is the compassion we can have for others.
How sweet of you to think of those who have been there for you. We often get out of a bad situation and think we have done it all ourselves..the getting out and feeling better that is….but its actually all the support we get that makes all the difference. You are incredibly sensitive to remember it all…!
Thank you fro sharing your wonderful thoughts here.
I wish I had read this a couple years ago when my husband lost someone very close to him. I’ve always had difficulties simply being there for someone. I’ve allowed the programming that says that doing is more important than being control me. I was incredibly challenged to simply be there for my husband. I felt like I needed to do something to solve his problem which is the opposite of what he needed. I finally learned but it would have been helpful at the time to have read something like this. May this post help others to better support those who really need it. Thank you Zeenat!
I know what you mean and completely understand where you are coming from. I used to be so so quick to offer advice before….but now oh, I rather just be there and let them heal. It takes a bit of practice, but we get there.
I do hope this post helps all those who need it. I often feel the simpler our approach to life, the easier the healing is.
Thank you so much for sharing your energy here.
Lots of love~
As a therapist I learned how to hold a space and a vision until my client to do it. I learned as much from them as they did from me. Maybe more!
We were lucky enough to be taught this , but many a times even being taught is not enough to actually end up putting it to practice. I know how long it took me to actually get to a place of just listening and being there as compared to jumping in and belting out advice !
You are so right…we learn so much from each other….all part of growth and evolution of our soul hmm..
Thank you so much for your loving comment here.
Lots of love~
As someone who has experienced depression, your post is a wonderful guide for anyone who want to help a friend/family member with their depression.
So often, people have good intentions but don’t know how to help. Telling someone that they’ll ‘shake off the blues’ or ‘you’re just in a rut’ is the last thing a depressed person needs to hear.
Just being there to support, quietly, with love often is the best medicine. Fran
I know, I have been on the good intention side…and have literally been dumb struck when it came to the right words to soothe and comfort…that was years and years back. Now experience and knowledge has led me to change my ways and I do see the infinite benefits in just the right word or words….
You’re so so right….quiet loving support often is the bestest medicine the aching heart needs.
Thank you fro your heartfelt comment here.
Much Love ~
As a believer in Jesus Christ I do believe that anything is possible through him that gives us strength! Its difficult in the natural but if we have faith to believe with our HEARTS that he is alive in us we will be saved and have peace,joy and most of all LOVE, Gods love that surpasses all understanding! God Bless!
When the Divine works through us anything is indeed possible.
After studying and learning all the religions I have come to a conclusion, that in the end all stand for love and peace….
Thank you for your loving comment here.
Zeenat, this is such an important post! So many of us feel we want to reach help and help support someone going through such hard time, but often times we just don’t know what to do. It can be such a sensitive life situation and we don’t want to do the “wrong” thing. You offer such great wisdom and insights – so vitally important for us to know when we want to reach out and support another.
Truly an important post. The more of us that learn/know how to support someone going through depression, the better. I can only imagine how different society would be if we all knew what to do, to say – how to lovingly support another during depression.
Oh the society thats heart centered is ultimately creating heaven on earth.
Pression can be such a dark time… And a kind loving gesture often comes as sunshine in situations like this.
Thank you for your marvelous comment here.
Lots of love~
These were great tips for those trying to support someone who is depressed. It doesn’t accuse the person of being depressed. I’ve been there and we’re not always aware we actually are depressed. We often don’t like to face that kind of reality. Hope you’re having a great weekend!
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Thanks a ton for this inspiring post :)!! I totally agree and felt connected with each & everything you wrote!! Thanks thanks and thanks. You have no idea how happy I am to have found this blog:)!! Thanks Zeenat :)!!
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