It is not always easy to hold the tender spots of someone who is feeling down. When we love people, it makes our hearts hurt when their hearts hurt, and it can be difficult to determine how they would like to be loved when they are feeling dark. Sometimes the loving comes naturally, because their heart is only sort of achy—nothing a T-Swift song can’t make better. Other times they are buried in a sadness that’s hard to navigate and love through.
Perhaps the greatest part of knowing another human is experiencing life together. Sharing your hearts and genuinely taking care of a relationship that helps you become a better person. Our sad times are some of our most important life lessons, and a good friend, a really genuinely special friend, sticks it out with you through the messed up times that leave us feeling low and lost.
The best thing you can do for a friend is listen and support. Forgive the crankiness that comes with feeling low, and remind them of all the beautiful magical things that make being alive wonderful and strange. Help them see things from a different perspective, and if you haven’t found a way to honor their sadness but still encourage them to ease up on themselves a bit, here are a few gentle suggestions:
1. Remind them they’re not alone.
Life is really, really difficult. And despite having things like handmade quilts, Netflix, and oceans, it can be full of tragedy, sadness, and darkness. This doesn’t mean the darkness wins, or even that it’s more important, it means that we aren’t alone in our determination to feel better and live happily. We all make mistakes, we all stumble around like nervous idiots and we definitely all get down now and again. Remind someone you love to be kind to themselves and not to judge or compare themselves to other people who they perceive are “happier” or “better” than them. Those other people may seem to have “everything” and be so happy and perfect and everything is fine, but they are just as human as the rest of us. Finding the beauty in humanity is so much more rewarding than the dark games of comparison and competition.
2. Play every Nina Simone song EVER
Nina Simone does with her voice what few can in words. She commands the seriousness that life requires, and finds a way to hold it gently and sternly. She speaks to the saddest part of our bellies and is able to reach the highest parts of our gratitude. She is a force, and reminds us to live bravely and vulnerably, even in times of sadness.
3. Honor their feelings
Speaking up can be intimidating. Sometimes we are nervous that our sadness isn’t warranted, when so many horrifically sad circumstances are taking place all around the world. It’s important to remind your loved one that it isn’t criminal to feel sad, regardless of whether or not they think it’s “okay” to feel that way. They are entitled to be sad, to get, like, really, really sad and cry for 24 hours straight. They can put their face in a pillow and scream. Eat a Halloween size bag of Snickers. Do whatever they need to do to get that sadness out. You know what happens to sadness that doesn’t ever get out of your chest? It grows. And grows. And grows. Until one day your heart and lungs live in a river inside your body of sadness you didn’t let go of. Being sad isn’t weak. Crying isn’t weak. Everyone should own their feelings, and watch how much easier it becomes to let go of some of those darker ones.
4. Share this video
This woman rocks. I promise, she helps!
5. Offer to help them make a list of everything they like
They shouldn’t over-think it too much, but instead, just sit down and write down anything that comes to mind. They should do it until they start to feel that little lift gratitude brings to a heavy heart. Here are some things that just make me happy.
- Dried fruit
- Display pastries made of paper mache
- Dolly Parton
- Cold sheets
- Clean hair
- Good hugs
- Iced espresso
Passing through the town of sadness is healthy and part of being alive, just make sure you or your loved ones don’t move into that town. None of us are broken. Stretch out those sad muscles and start reminding yourself and your loved ones of how many things are right there in front of us to embrace, enjoy and love.
(Images and GIFs , via)