Let them cry.
Yeah, I know. No one likes to feel those negative emotions no matter what may have caused them. In fact, negative emotions make us so uncomfortable that we will avoid people who are experiencing them. (I’m not talking about people who live with a negative mindset. That’s a different topic.)
Have you ever watched little kids when one of them starts crying? The other kids will pat them on the back and tell them not to cry or start crying with them even if they don’t know why they’re crying. It’s cute and fun to watch but that’s what we do as adults also. I still find myself crying with and for total strangers who are hurting.
Crying is good for the soul. It’s a natural human emotion. The sooner we let them get it out instead of suppressing it, the sooner they will be able to move on with life to function and feel better. Depending on how recent the situation is that caused the sadness the crying may sort of come and go, especially during the holidays. Almost anything can trigger it but if they start to cry, resist the urge to tell them “don’t cry”. Instead, give a hug, lend a shoulder, or wipe their tears. You don’t want to host a pity party. You just want to remind them that you care.
When in their company don’t ignore them. Acknowledge them. Speak to them and give them eye contact. They need to feel love and acceptance so that they feel safe if they choose to talk about their experience. Find ways to make them comfortable. Engage in conversation with them but don’t try to force them to talk, which leads to the next point.
You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to have any of the answers. Just listen. If they want to talk about the situation or how they feel, let them…without judging them. It’s their experience, not yours. Talking things out is part of the healing process. Avoid saying things like, “I understand” especially if you’ve never had the same experience. And it doesn’t matter how spiritual they are, when a person is hurting they do not want to hear, “God knows best.” They already know that but saying it at that time will not make them feel better.
Listen for what they don’t say as well as what they do say. If they say or do things that alarm you or threaten to bring harm to themselves or someone else, call for emergency help if required. Talk with a mental health professional who has experience treating patients with depression. Let them know what concerns you and seek their advice.
Get them out.
If your friend is sulking around the house, do them a favor and get them out and in the company of others. Find things to do like go to parties or events, parades, shopping, do volunteer work together, go to the kids school programs or sports games, go dancing or workout. There are lots of things to do. Be creative and do something.
Get them out among other people even if they don’t feel like it. I remember years ago one of the ladies in my church group was feeling really down and depressed. Our women’s group was having a social event but this particular young lady was not planning on going. She was content sitting at home wallowing in her self-pity. I called her to try to convince her to go and she repeatedly said no. I decided to stop by her house unannounced and demand that she get dressed. She couldn’t believe I did that. She complied and rode with me to the event. Afterwards on the way home she told me she was so grateful that I didn’t give up and that I insisted that she go. She was able to have a good time, smile, laugh, take her mind off of her problems and for the first time in a long time feel alive and like there was hope.
So that's it. You don't have to be a "professional", you only have to care. If you know someone who has the holiday blues, all it takes is a little time and attention to help them get through it. Don’t wait around on someone else to do it. If you already know they are struggling, that’s your opportunity to live out the Golden Rule. One day, it will come back to you when you least expect it but when you need it most.
Contact Roz for more ideas on how to help your friend get through the holidays and beyond.