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How to talk to someone in despair by someone who has been there

by Kate

Kate was brought up in a cult that didn’t allow medical intervention. She is a person with lived experience who has had suicidal thoughts. For Kate, a big contributing factor to this is her strict upbringing and the conflict that comes that resulted from severing ties with a religion that holds you hostage but also is the only life you’ve ever known.

Do: Listen.  Let them voice their emotions. Ask if they would like to make a list of the things that they need, both large and small.  Do something on it right away.  It will make them feel both cared for and heard.  Delegate tasks.  Only commit to what you can follow through on.  Time is of the essence.  

Jancee Dunn wrote a lovely article earlier this month: When Someone You Love Is Upset, ask: “Do you want to be helped, heard or hugged.” 

Ask.  Do what they want.  Not what you want them to want, what they asked for. 

Especially if the person in crisis is someone that is otherwise extremely functional, tread lightly around unsolicited advice. 

Avoid statements starting with  “well maybe you should…” or “why don’t you just…”

If you say the wrong thing, let them get infuriated and/or angry.  “I’m just trying to help!” will likely have as much success diffusing the situation as telling any woman ever to “just calm down!”

They are in crisis.  A state in which many die from.  Don’t minimize. It IS that bad. 

Looks can be deceiving.  Lots of people “look fine” or even quite well when in crisis.  Watch for sudden changes in behavior.  Have they stopped opening their mail?  Are they planning for the future at all-just the near future?

Send a handwritten card in the mail.  Ask others to do so as well.  Food is healing, food is life.  We all need to eat.  Add a gift card to a restaurant or market that they enjoy. 

Animals and small children can be quite healing.

Love.  Compassion.  Common ground.  Connection. Unity.  

We have all struggled at times.  I humbly ask to please check in and care for our fellow man.  Pay it forward when the strength is restored to do so.  

One thought on “How to talk to someone in despair by someone who has been there”

  1. So, so true about sharing. People need to be allowed to vent without interruption, interrogation or interpretation. People need to be heard and this hearing, without judgment or the need to mend, this is what truly helps as it validates the person. But we also need to be aware of who we share with and where.
    Many years ago, I was in a men’s group and shared about sexual abuse by my father when I was a child and later he attempted the same when I was an early adult. When the latter occurred, I just froze and reverted back to a child with all the fears back then coming to the fore in that moment as that early adult. I felt scared, violated, nauseous and was crying. Luckily, the adult part of me came to the fore and I was able to protect myself and get out of the situation.
    There was a night in the group where I felt it right to share this story BUT boy was I wrong. I was made to feel like I somehow wanted this experience for nearly even believed (I will not do them the justice of saying “Felt” for feelings hold no conscious judgments). Why, I should have been able to prevent even getting into such a situation as an adult. And at that moment I felt very ashamed and misunderstood. No one seemed to understand nor even wanted to hear me, the adult speaking with words akin to that of a child. Fast forward about 15 years later and I came across a 45 year old man who had an almost identical experience with his own father (he was 21 at the time of his experience) and a similar reaction to my own upon telling another. He told me that on the night that he shared this with another person and received a similar reaction, that he just wanted to die. So a hurting man could have taken his life because people heard his words, but they did not listen to his pain.
    We hesitantly shared our stories together with no interruptions, interrogations or interpretations and we held one another as two hurting men and just cried together; no judgment nor a need to mend for what our experiences could not be mended. I only saw him that one time (about 8 years ago now) but from that day on, I decided to let go of the past and of the demons that were once an almost daily part of my life. Indeed, I only remember the hurt of my childhood and no real happy memories. But the demons have gone as my the Pagan Lord and His Lady stepped into my life and now guide me and protect me.
    It has been frightfully difficult but liberating to accept that these things happened. However, I no longer allow the past that I did not choose, to rule my life and keep me locked in some Prison of a Memory. The Prison was pulled down years ago though I had to revisit the site (in my mind’s eye) to see for myself that it really was gone, never to return.
    I will take a lot away from this article and thank the author for sharing her insights and her wise words

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