How to Console a Friend?
Watching a friend or loved one howl with grief or depression can really stab you in the heart.
Whether it's watching a family member grieve over the deceased, watching a friend cry over a breakup, or witness someone in the onset of heavy depression, it can be difficult to know the right thing to do. Thankfully, it isn't difficult to know what to do once you learn to spot what's happening.
You can get better at consoling people with practice, and this article will outline the most important things to keep in mind when consoling someone.
Just be there
Honestly, this provides 90% of the results in some situations. You don't need to worry about the right thing to say. You don't need to wonder if you have enough information to do the right thing. The simplest thing is to sit right next to them and let them fully express their emotions right next to you.
The physical act of just being there is often incredibly helpful. If they want physical affection, you can offer a hug and let them cry into your chest. Or you can sit side by side and put an arm around their shoulder.
This stage requires no calculations or logic. Just let them be, and be near them. Physically be there. Even if say absolutely nothing, the other person will often appreciate you being their rock.
Open a gentle dialogue
Affirm that what they're feeling is justified. Never minimize their pain and express that you're unhappy about the situation as well. You don't need to tell them how to feel or what to do right now. The other person cycles through different stages of the grieving process, and they dictate the pace at which things happen.
Use open-ended questions to probe about what happened and tell them they're right to feel the way they feel. Offer similar experiences but never try to one-up them or take the attention away from their situation unless you know what you're doing. In a nutshell, be gentle, ask about what happened and agree with their feelings.
Adapt to their coping mechanism
Everyone copes differently, and no one has a right to judge another's coping mechanism unless they're hurting someone else to get better. Whatever healthy mechanism they use to cope, enable it.
The highs and lows during their grief can be unpredictable. So don't be surprised if they feel like crying one moment, go on a rant the next, and want to sit in complete silence the next minute. They're processing what needs to be processed, and you can act as a catalyst in their venting by going along with their opinions.
Provide practical support when they need it
This doesn't necessarily mean troubleshooting their problems. While they go through their grieving process, you can offer to do the shopping, walk the dog, help with housework, look after pets, or take care of the paperwork while they simply process their grief.
Buy them time to do the highest priority things at the moment. Their emotional needs take precedence over real-life formalities so look after those so they can focus on healing. If they ever express the need for troubleshooting their problem, then begin to offer suggestions about solving the problem.
This is often done after they are emotionally "cried out" and are ready to now tackle real-world, practical problems after their emotional needs for venting and release are met.
Take care of yourself to take care of them
To console a friend in an ongoing crisis, you'll need to look after them and offer help for possibly months on end. You should never undergo emotional drainage that results in caretaker fatigue. Caretaker fatigue means you undertake so much emotional burden that you begin to start hating the person instead of loving them.
It's a natural thing that happens with everyone when their emotions are pushed to the limits. So put on your oxygen mask first before taking care of others. Learn healthy coping mechanisms for yourself that let you unwind, relax, and lift your worries.
Often, people with pets find that their animals are absolutely incredible sources of emotional support, as they can cry and talk to them all day long without the animal getting burned out emotionally.
Pets are a huge help, and something as simple as a bird or a fish can be easy to keep and maintain if cats and dogs aren't feasible at the moment.