There she is, curled up on the floor, as vulnerable and hurt as you have ever seen her. You are her mate/sibling/parent/friend and you feel compelled to help her – your heart is breaking. But it’s hard to know what to do.
DO NOT make this about you
The pain she is experiencing is hers – it is not appropriate to compare it to something you have experienced in your life. That makes it about you, and it’s not about you.
Keep it about her by encouraging her to talk or by letting her lead the conversation, even if that means sitting in silence.
DO NOT force her to talk
Encouraging her to open up is one thing, but if she doesn’t want to talk, then let it be.
Give her room to gradually begin opening up. Encourage her in small ways like making quiet time together. Even if you think it’s unhealthy for her to keep her emotions bottled in, it’s not for you to decide when she opens up. Be patient, this could take a while (days, weeks or months).
DO NOT unleash your anger about the person who caused this
It’s likely her pain is directly connected to another person.
While YOU SHOULD take her side, no matter what, becoming an angel of vengeance is too much. If there is revenge to be had, it is hers to have – don’t take that away from her.
DO NOT judge her behavior
She may feel the need to break some stuff. Tell her to go for it—it’s just stuff. She may want to throw jewelry in a pond. Whatever. You should not stand in the way of how she expresses herself (unless she’s about to take extreme measures).
YOU SHOULD do your best to show her that you love her no matter what. She probably knows she’s being irrational, and there are times in life when being a totally irrational, emotional beast is the way to be. Making your love and support for her obvious gives her a safe place to land when she returns to her senses.
DO NOT preach
Personally, the worst “nice thing” someone can do when I’m hurting is start telling me about ‘how people are’ or ‘you should definitely do this.’ You might mean well, but you’re not helping. I know you want to, but it’s better to just be present than spout wise sayings or clichés or give her reading assignments.
YOU SHOULD be there as a form of support, but just let her process her pain. It’s part of life.
DO NOT trigger a relapse
What I mean is, don’t make her watch a movie about someone who experienced a similar trauma. You may think there are important lessons to be learned, but that’s not really what gets through to her when she’s hurt – she’ll just relive the pain. Don’t listen to break up songs if she just got dumped or watch Jaws if she just lost a friend to a shark attack … you get the idea.
What you SHOULD DO is distract her with a harmless comedy or something fun. Just make sure you’ve screened it for triggers first.
The insights in this article are the opinion of the writer.