Dangerous Compassions

how to help a sad person

People ask Ming how I am.  They know I was in the hospital.  They wanna know if I’m better.  They care, for his sake and for mine.

I’m doing much better physically.  When I first came home from the hospital, I was so bad.  I could barely function.  I was at one percent.

There are the reasons you were in the hospital.  Well, you were not looking too living for a minute there.

Then there are the problems the hospital causes.  I had a terrible cough.  From lying down too much, maybe, in a hospital bed?  I was super weak.  Maybe from the same?

Or it could have been other reasons–the anemia, the sadness, how I wasn’t eating food for four days, losing weight really fast?

Weird stuff happened to me, in the hospital.  It’s not normal to get four bags of other people’s blood pumped into you, for example.  That’s not part of everyday life.  Or the strong drugs, the thing they put down my throat, what they did to my stomach, etc.

I had to get strength back, to become again capable of walking from a parking lot to a building, of walking through a store.  I took those things for granted, before.

And I thought it would take weeks, for my blood to be good again.  I didn’t understand it would take months!  I wish a doctor had told me that.  I wish I’d had a more realistic timeline.

Anyway, my friend asked Ming how I was.  I’m really up and down, emotionally.  Ming said no one knows what to say about that.

I told Ming they could help.  My blood, what could they do?  Buy me a bottle of iron pills?  For my emotional health, there are a hundred things they could do.

Ming was thinking the opposite.  He asked, “What could they do?”

“How do you help someone who’s sad?  Have you lived to be 52 years old and never helped a sad person before?”  I didn’t ask something so snarky, then, but I’ve said similar things in the past.  Sorry, honey.

I remember, talking about mental health struggles at Justice for our Desert.  Some people looked away.  Like I was talking about sex or money.  I think they were hurt, about it.

Maybe, well, you never know.  Something happened a long time ago?  Or for whatever reason, they’re not ready to go there.   So they wish I’d shut up.

Well,  I make a lot of lists–brainstorming self-care, what is comfort in this world, things I want or need, things a volunteer could do to help with Nevada Desert Experience, different to do lists, questions for doctors, foods I want to eat more of, people I like writing letters to.

Here is a list called how to help a sad person.

1.  listen

2.  offer hugs

3.  offer to hold hands

4.  don’t get defensive

5.  ask what you can do for them

6.  write them a love letter

7.  bring them a present that doesn’t require anything additional

8.  be very patient with them

9.  hand them tissues if they’re crying

10.  help with something on their comfort list

11.  like make them tea

12.  tell them something you like about them

13.  tell them a funny memory of something you did together

14.  say something unrelated really briefly to see if they want to be distracted

15.  take some pressure off them, like see if you can do one of their chores

16.  flowers in vase with water

17.  card with a pretty picture on it

18.  support their main support person

19.  give them a food they like, if they can eat

20.  check up on them often

21.  check up on them after everyone else stops

22.  grocery run, gift card, money, housecleaning

23.  offer rides

24.  offer to bring something needed

25.  offer to go with them to an appt

26.  pray with them, if they like that

27.  offer to sing them a healing song

28.  invite them to something

29.  offer to tell them a story of a predetermined length

30.  cry with them

31.  validate them

32.  give them a cheering zine or book

33.  tell them they can call you day or night

34.  research a local warmline number

35.  give them a small colorful art

36.  say “I love you”

37.  assume they’re understating their pain

38.  offer to take them to nature or just a park

39.  offer to braid their hair, paint their nails, hand massage

40.  draw them a picture

41.  write them a poem

42.  bring them a quote about how things change

43.  offer to play a game with them that they like

44.  be realistic about what you can offer

45.  don’t over-exert yourself

46.  offer to look together at their postcard collection, stamp collection, scrapbook

47.  ask them to dance with you

48.  offer to make something together: cookies, paper airplanes, jello

49.  offer to collaborate on a project like a zine or garden

50.  offer to play with playdough together or some other toy

51.  offer to blow bubbles

52.  offer to make art together

53.  offer to do a simple healing ritual together

54.  offer to meditate together, if they like that

55.  offer to walk, swim, or exercise together, if they can

56.  get consent, respect boundaries

57.  use your intuition as well as your everyday thinking

58.  get creative

59.  don’t blame

60.  offer to gratitude journal together

61.  research signs that someone wants to kill themself and watch for them

62.  offer something you have too much of or don’t need anymore

63.  invite them to visit a community you belong to

64.  invite them to volunteer with you

65.  ask them a question you’ve always wondered about

66.  brainstorm a list of ideas they might like

67.  offer to tell a joke

68.  ask them to help you with something possible and finite

69.  offer to bring over your pet, kid, Mom, or other liked being

70.  offer to read them something they’ve been wanting to read

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

One reply on “how to help a sad person”

This is a powerful and much needed post. Mental and physical seem pretty much the same to me, except the word physical is not usually taboo. You bring light in the world.

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