“If there’s anything you need”/ How to Help a Hurting Person

Last week’s blog was on the common experience of not wanting to be too “needy.” This fear often keeps people from seeking or accepting support in their time of need.

When working with people who have lost a loved one- or even people who are just going through a rough patch in life- I hear their nearly desperate need for support, paired with their sense of hopelessness around actually getting that support.

They share that even if people reach out, their offers are typically something like, “If there’s anything you need, just let me know.” But this person doesn’t know how to ask for what they need, or, they don’t even know what they need. They are overwhelmed, exhausted and drowning.

We can improve this in two ways:

  1. Hurting people can ask more specifically for what they need. If you are hurting and need some help getting help, consider adapting some of the following requests to share when people extend a general offer of support:

“I could really use some company if you have any time to spare.”

“Can you call me once a day so I can hear someone’s voice?”

“I can’t face this appointment alone. Would you come as a support person?”

“I am overwhelmed by this task. Could you keep me company while I tackle it?”

“I could use a real meal.”

“I need groceries but it is so hard to get to the store. Can you deliver some items?”

“No one wants to talk about him with me. Can we just talk about him, even if I cry?”

“Would you drive me to this place I need to go to? I feel too distraught to drive.”

“Everything feels overwhelming and I don’t know where to start. Could you help me make a plan?”

Please do not say, “Oh you don’t have to do that.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” as a response to an offer of help will make the helper unsure whether you want to accept this offer. Even if you feel a bit uncomfortable, you can say something like, “I don’t want to imposition you, but since you’re offering that would be perfect. I appreciate it.”

  • Helpers can extend offers that are sensitive and specific enough to be useful. If you know someone who is hurting and want to support them, considering presenting your offers specifically. “If there’s anything I can do” rings hollow and insincere, even from the most well-meaning person. Examples of some helpful offers:

“Could I stop over one day this weekend and spend a little time with you? I could come Saturday evening or any time Sunday.”

“I want to call you regularly to check in, but if you are not up for talking, let it go to voicemail.”

“Would you like some company at the Oncologist’s Thursday? I’m free and could take you.”

“Oh, I hate when a task gets so overwhelming. What if I came over for an hour and helped you sort through it? I’ll bring coffee.”

“I made you a lasagna. Should I drop it on your porch or are you up for a visitor?”

“I am running to the grocery store tomorrow morning. Send me your list and I will deliver.”

“I love to hear your memories of him and if you cry when we talk, at least I will be there with you.”

“I am happy to drive you to your meeting. I know the traffic gets overwhelming and this way we can chat on the ride.”

“There is so much paperwork to do. Of course it is overwhelming. Could I go through it with you and help you make a plan for what should be done first and all the steps?”

If we are going to connect authentically as humans, we have to give and accept authentically too. Sometimes this can be uncomfortably direct or make us feel more vulnerable, but these are the opportunities to be with others in this life.

I think that’s worth a bit of discomfort.

Published by Angela Dora Dobrzynski

My name is Angela Dora Dobrzynski. I'm a professional counselor, and am passionate for all things personal development and human behavior. I specialize in grief and life transitions, with a special interest in health and stress psychology, emotional resilience and utilizing strengths as the basis of personal development. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Pennsylvania. I have a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Rosemont College and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Stockton University. Additionally, I hold a certificate in Holistic Health Coaching from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and was granted a certificate in NonProfit Leadership From Arcadia University’s School of Continuing Education as well as a certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership from Bryn Mawr School of Social Work. My professional experience includes work in the hospice of a major local healthcare system, Women's Resource Center, The Renfrew Center, Manor College and Children’s Crisis Treatment Center. I am a member of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology. In my personal life I spend time kayaking, writing, gardening and connecting with my loved ones.

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