How to Support Loved Ones During Hard Times

February 17, 2023

Grace Cheng (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer


No one likes to see their loved ones in pain, and we are more than willing to assist them in any way we can. Any number of situations could arise, such as a loved one suffering from an illness, the break-up of a relationship, bereavement, or struggling to make a difficult decision.


Providing support to loved ones during tough times can be challenging. Sometimes you may feel that there is nothing you can do or that you are not qualified or strong enough to help.  It can be challenging to determine if a loved one needs advice, a sympathetic ear, or even some tough love, especially when the wrong approach may lead to them feeling worse about their situation.  When people are struggling with difficult issues in their lives, it takes patience, understanding, and empathy to be able to help them.

Here are nine ways that you can support your loved ones during hard times:

  1. Be There

The thing you most want to do is be there for your loved ones when they are going through tough times. It can be difficult to cope with grief, but showing empathy and support can make a big difference. 

      2. Be a Positive Influence

Try not to focus too much on the negatives when you are spending time with your loved ones, particularly if you know they are going through a difficult time. When you are aware that they are feeling down, try to plan something fun that will take their mind off of it for a short while. You may use the opportunity to have a chat with them, as well as to just have some fun and unwind. In some cases, they are more willing to share their problems when they are relaxed, so it may be more effective to approach an issue in this manner rather than through an intense conversation.


      3. Listening

Listening  is sometimes the best thing you can do for your loved ones. Just being willing to listen to their problems will help them feel less alone and isolated. If they are having difficulty communicating, let them know that you are available whenever they are ready. It is important to remember that offering support is not the same as providing advice. Listen to what they have to say and give them space to speak without interjecting your own opinions or advice into the conversation. When you listen to your loved ones, you will have a better understanding of what they are going through, which will allow you to determine what you can do to help them.


      4. Be Empathetic

Putting yourself in the shoes of a loved one is one of the best things you can do when they confide in you.  It is important to empathize with them and to understand where they are coming from, not to only say, “Oh, that’s awful,” or simply to give them advice without empathizing with their situation.  Think about what you needed from your loved one during difficult times in your own life, particularly if the person is a family member. Whenever possible, tell them, “I understand how you feel,”, and if they ask you or you feel it will help, share similar experiences you have had in the past.


      5. Be Patient

It is important to remember that everyone’s path is different and that they must follow it at their own pace. Patience is critical to supporting your loved ones. By being patient with them, you are letting them know that it does not matter how long it will take them to get better, the number of treatments, or the difficulties that may arise, as you will always be there for them and that it is okay to take their time to get better. It will give them hope and comfort if you demonstrate your patience, especially if progress is slow or stalled, which will also help alleviate any guilt they may feel about not getting better sooner. Having realistic expectations is essential. For example, if you are dealing with someone who has a chronic illness, keep in mind that there is no quick fix. It will take time for things to heal and improve, nothing ever happens overnight.


      6. Avoid Judgment

Being there for someone requires that you refrain from making judgments.  It is common for people to feel unable to reach out to others when they are struggling, because they fear that their problems will be minimized or dismissed.  It is imperative to put aside all preconceived notions and judgments before trying to console someone in their time of need so that they do not view you in this manner.


      7. Offer Physical Touch

Put a gentle hand on their shoulder. By conveying empathy through physical touch, you are sure to make them feel a little better or at least cared for.  Sometimes all they require is a hug. No words are necessary – just open your arms and they will hug you.  Hold on for as long as possible in order to demonstrate that you are there for them.  


      8. Be Soft

During times of suffering, people may become distant, depressed, or angry.  There is no doubt that it is easy to lose your temper when someone behaves in this manner towards you, but unfortunately, pain and suffering can bring out our worst characteristics. You must avoid using a “tough-love” approach and remain calm, as your loved one needs to feel that their relationship with you is an emotionally safe one.  Be compassionate and speak from the heart to them.  It is more likely that they will turn to you if you are kind and compassionate, and getting angry with them will simply not accomplish anything.  


      9. Keep Checking In

Remind your loved ones that you are always available for conversation or time spent together. Ensure that you follow up regularly with texts or calls and set reminders to contact them on days that may be particularly difficult for them, such as birthdays and anniversaries. People who experience hardship often receive a tremendous amount of support in the first few weeks or months and then feel forgotten as friends and family return to their everyday routines—so even if it is just a quick weekly hello, being there for them over the long term can make all the difference.


Being present for loved ones does not only mean being physically present, but also being emotionally, mentally, and spiritually available at all times.  

Grace has an accounting and finance background. She enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, watching movies and playing sports.

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