Hello Readers. You have more influence than you may realize, so use it to create moments of shared compassion and courage!
When someone you lead is feeling downcast, depressed, despairing or thinking of self harm, you may feel inadequate, fearful, or maybe even overwhelmed. Realize that where there is life, there is hope; where there is frustration there is the promise of something better. Sure, this is not an easy or a quick fix, but you can get there together over time with grace and truth.
Those 4 components will help you in your conversations: together, time, grace and truth. Hope rarely comes in isolation and healing often happens in healthy relationships. Being together provides the power of your presence and just being there is potent. All things take time and sometimes its sooner or longer than we would like. But that’s where presence meets grace and truth to bring solace during the waiting.
Grace is not just sweetness and kindness. Grace is empowering strength. God gives us grace that is part of salvation and also part of our authority in our identity as a child of God. We each give grace to each other through compassion, empathy, kindness, hope, encouragement, and presence.
Truth is not just the truth we might expect from trusted sources. Truth is that reality connected to faith and identity in Christ. Truth is also our current experience and our hope for what could be coming.
When you show up (presence), you come with grace, you listen to true experiences and share true hope connected to certain faith. Over time together you see there is new life and new growth.
Here are a 3 big ideas and a few additional specific ways you might be able to help someone who is hurting or who wants to hurt themselves. Each of these include those 4 components (together, time, grace and truth) while giving you suggestions from others experiences.
Help through indirect care, direct care or referred care.
- Showing up is an indirect way of offering care and compassion. The last time you wanted someone to help you, maybe you asked them to “just come over”. Showing up is caring.
- Praying for others is about encouraging, restoring, affirming, blessing and interceding. Your prayers mean a lot and we know from Scripture they are effective.
- When you help you are offering assistance or support that is of use or of benefit.
All of these indirect methods of caring are “helping”. When you have the energy, space and time to care directly these next two methods can be employed too.
- Listen, Ask, Share ways you can help them to take the next steps to health and hope. Honestly hear the struggle and do not offer true but trite phrases. Express your concern. Ask questions to understand more of their experience and seek to understand the source of their pain. Ask how they have been coping with the pain and acknowledge you are with them now. Share the following ways you feel you could help and include other ways you feel you could be helpful.
- As you directly offer care, be mindful of your real limits. If you have obligations or family time or your own health care, don’t offer to be available 24-7. Instead offer the times you know you will be available and give them realistic expectations of how you can care.
- Encourage them to be willing to be willing. Even the smallest glimmer of willingness can grow into a beacon of hope.
- Together make a crisis card – a crisis card includes what to do, what not to do, who to call and where to go. It could also include if needed, a 24 hour hotline number relating to the person’s need. (Suicide prevention, 1-800-SUICIDE, in Austin SafePlace for domestic violence, etc.)
- Do do it alone. Always include others in the care process. This is where referred care comes in.
- Connect the person to someone you know who has the skills to help them with their next steps. This might look like offering to go with them to the appointment, sitting with them while they make the call, or following up with them after the appointment to ask how it went.
- Involve others – this is the other side of referred care, when you include other people in the care process that may or may not be professionals. You can’t care alone and the problem won’t get solved with just you and the person in pain. Involve others who are healthy and helpful. Maybe you attend appointments together so that you can support or help with accountability. Maybe you help them draw out a visual of who’s in it with me so they can see who they can count on.
- Work together to create a contract of hope – sure it sounds cheesy, but this looks like very practical ways to create an agreed upon daily rhythm or list of activities that will help the person regain hope and health. Any physical or dietary activities should always be reviewed by the person’s medical or mental health professionals.
As we consider methods and specific ways to help someone who is hurting or who wants to hurt themselves, we would do well to consider our overall goal.
Sure it’s enough to say our goal is they would feel better or that they wouldn’t hurt themselves.
I think a bigger goal is to help people experience healing and wholeness through healthy intimacy with God and others. When this goal is achieved, there is typically a strong group of friends or loved ones who are all letting themselves be known while seeking to know one another. This framework of relational intimacy involves healthy ways of being known emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically all in the context of healthy relationships.
Now that’s a goal!
To wrap it up, helping someone who is hurting or who wants to hurt themselves means you will engage with them on levels that match your limits of space, time, and energy. It also means that as you connect together with others you will experience grace and truth over time as healing occurs.
Connect with me and let me know how it goes!
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs a counseling center in Austin, Texas and co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
Photo from Pexels.com, Graphics from Canva.com