When our loved ones are going through difficult times, it might be hard for us to witness or second handedly experience. Here we offer you some tips on how you can hold space for loved ones who need your support during emotional challenges.
1. Start with offering your full, undivided, and dropped-in presence.
Sometimes watching our loved ones struggle brings out a tendency in us to fix, offer quick solutions, and even words of empowerment. Sometimes our loved ones just need a non-judgmental ear, and sturdy shoulder to lean on, so that they know they are being fully heard, fully seen, and fully supported in the exact space they are in right now.
2. Use nonverbal communication to express support
Gestures like head nods, furrowed eyebrows, and even a verbal hum can go such a long way in showing your loved one that you are fully present to their experience, and are dropped into what they are sharing with you.
3. Find out what type of support they are seeking by asking them directly. .
This is an important practice. There is no way we can always know the type of support our loved one is seeking. Sometimes they are seeking physical support, like a hug or hand hold. Sometimes they are seeking feedback, this might include a share of your perspective, guidance of potential options moving forward, or even just gentle words of encouragement, affirmation and validation. Sometimes the support they are seeking does not include any of these things, sometimes they just need someone that will listen, without trying to fix. Sometimes they just need their loved one to accept, and hold them in the exact space they are in right now.
A potential template for this type of question might be:
“I want you to know that in this moment, I see you, I hear you, and I am feeling for you. Before we move forward, I want to ask what support do you need from me at this moment? "(Pause and listen actively to what they are asking of you.)
If your loved one is unsure, reassure them that you're there for them and that it is okay if they don't know the exact support they need from you at this time by saying:
“If you don’t know at this moment, it is okay. I am here for you regardless.”
Sometimes, if we know our loved ones in a closer, more familiar way, we might be able to presume what support they usually would want/need. In this case, perhaps asking for consent. This might sound like:
Thank you for your bravery, transparency and willingness to share this with me. Can I give you a hug?
Watching our loved ones go through difficult times may often bring up difficult feelings for us as well. Make sure to tend to your emotional needs when you can, and consider that we cannot always be responsible for the healing of our loved ones. Support is a special gesture we offer within our capacity. Be sure to take care of yourselves as well, and lean on your loved ones for support too.
If you are looking to seek support for yourself or a loved one, remember HEALING IS WITHIN REACH. Request a FREE phone consultation TODAY and allow one of our therapists to support you on your journey to wellness.
About the Writer...
Emily Nunez is a current student Mental Health Counseling and Wellness student at
NYU Steinhardt. As a native New Yorker and member of the Latinx community she has a passion for social justice and values intercultural fluency and other multicultural issues. Her experience as wellness practitioner, and growing clinician, Emily places high value on compassionate and intentionally crafted dialogue, unpacking spiritual exploration/connection to self, and holding space in a way that honors a client in their entirety.
Our mission at Wellness Tree Counseling Services is to promote wellness through a culturally sensitive lens so that individuals, families and communities are encouraged to rise to their full potential and engage life in meaningful ways. To learn more about our services, please visit www.wellnesstreecounseling.com