Watching Others Suffer

Watching a loved one suffer is never fun. EVER. It is difficult because there is often little we can do to help and even less we can do to make someone to be a “good patient.”
   Supporting someone that is struggling with any sort of chronic health problem, be it physical or emotional, can be one of the hardest things to manage in a relationship. Part of this is because we have no power or control over what the loved one does in regards to his/her care. Part of it is because it may cause us to face our own issues as bad stuff has a funny way of acting as a
mirror.

So what are the best ways to support a person that is dealing with a lingering issue?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Make sure that YOUR physical and emotional health and wellness are in check.  It sounds silly, but if you aren’t taking care of yourself, it’s nearly impossible to take care of someone else.  It’s the old, “If the plane is going down, put your oxygen mask on first” idea. If you are struggling to manage your feelings about it, seek out the guidance of a professional.
  2. Practice active listening.  People tend to THINK that they are actively listening, but this is frequently not the case.  Often while listening, people are preparing their own response as opposed to truly hearing what is being said.  The down and dirty list of how to actively listen includes:
    1. Face the speaker and make eye contact
    2. Be attentive but relaxed
    3. Keep an open mind and listen without judgement
    4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying
    5. Don’t interrupt
    6. Don’t impose your solutions
    7. Wait for a pause before asking a question and only do so to ensure understanding
    8. Be empathetic and try to feel what the speaker is feeling
    9. Watch for non-verbal cues
  3. Remember that the person is doing the best that he or she can.  Now, their best may not be your best, nor may it be as good as you think that they can do.  But odds are still likely that it is THEIR best at that time.
  4. Perhaps there is some other reason (called secondary gain) why they are not getting well.  It is only through active listening, patience, and a calm presence that this can be uncovered.  People tend to get pretty defensive about secondary gains so if you decide to pursue this with your loved one, tread lightly and with love.
  5. Try couples/family counseling.  Sometimes it’s helpful to have a neutral third party in the room to help people better communicate.  The goal of therapy like this is not to prove that someone is right or wrong, but simply to help each person better understand the other.

Please don’t think that I am in any way saying that this is an easy problem to fix because it’s often not.  However, using the steps outlined above, the chances of a successful outcome leading toward having an emotionally connected and intimate relationship with your loved one are greatly improved.

 

Here’s to your (and your loved ones’) health!

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