Supporting Those Who Are Quietly Suffering
There is no doubt that college is busy, chaotic, overwhelming, and stressful. And sometimes, we get so caught up in our own lives that we fail to notice people that are suffering around us. Everyone responds to grief differently—some people openly talk about difficult experiences, and others struggle with the idea of making people feel uncomfortable while telling them how they feel. While there are many resources out there highlighting “self-care,” there are not as many resources that touch upon how to care for those who are constantly grappling with terrifying and emotional situations. When your close friends go through traumatic situations, you often don’t know what to do or even say to help. As someone who has experienced emotionally traumatic events, I hope that I can offer a resource for those people who know someone who is experiencing loss, anxiety, and heartbreak, but are frozen in action and don’t know how to help. After people who are suffering open up to friends about their experiences, they often hear “Wow, I had no idea you were going through that.” The important thing is that now you know, and you can support them.
1. Walks outside
Walking allows people to engage in conversation if they feel up to it, or can leave people with their thoughts. Not only do walks help improve physical health, but numerous studies have been done on the effects that walking has on mental health. If a friend who is going through a difficult experience doesn’t answer your questions in a lengthy manner, take this as a sign that the person is comfortable with enjoying the fresh air and not saying anything. I find that walks create a space for me to meditate on the positive, or sometimes, a channel where I can lay my anxieties. Even if a walk is silent, a person who is suffering may appreciate just the presence of a friend who really cares.
Listening is an incredibly difficult skill that has to be mindfully practiced at all times. Active listening is not just staring at a person while your mind wanders away. It is intentionally clearing your mind and letting another person’s words resonate with you. And most of the time, someone who is suffering is not seeking any advice. People who are suffering may be looking for assurance that the emotions they are experiencing make sense. Listening means that you are engaged in the conversation by displaying emotions on your face, demonstrating appropriate body language, and not interrupting. It is really difficult to refrain from trying to relate to the experience of another person. But often times, a person who is quietly suffering truly just wants you to listen to their current situation. Sometimes saying “you are so brave” goes a long way.
3. Artistic Expression
There is something so magical about art—there are a plethora of different forms, and there has to be at least one form that engages the person who is quietly suffering. Whether artistic expression comes in the form of listening to or playing music, photography, writing poetry, painting, sewing, or crafting, the expression serves as a channel for mental energy. Encouraging those who are quietly suffering to immerse themselves into a type of artistic expression allows for them to depict their emotions into things that can’t be said in words.
Although it may seem like people who are quietly suffering are okay, that is usually not the case. Some people do actually like to keep the emotions of difficult situations to themselves, but there are so many others who need support. Maybe everyone won’t accept your support, but it never hurts to try—and if they do accept it, you are helping more than you know.