Notes and Mentions
There is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell
The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There For Yourself and Your People by Rachel Wilkerson Miller
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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: We’ve talked a lot in this podcast about self-care and finding ways to show up for ourselves, but we haven’t talked as much about showing up for other people. Can we talk about supporting others today?
Tina: Absolutely! Let’s focus on how we might support other adults in our lives. There is very likely someone in your life who is struggling right now and perhaps you don’t know quite how to respond. Maybe it’s another parent who has a child who is struggling or maybe it’s someone who lost a loved one in this past year like so many people have.
Serena: Yes, I think that there is commonality in having moments of suffering in our lives because it is unfortunately part of the human condition. And even though it’s a shared condition, the circumstances are often different for each person which means we may not be sure how to respond.
Tina: And we are here to say that you don’t have to know how to respond. It is perfectly OK. No one is expecting you to have all the right answers. There are some great resources out there that you might find helpful and we will share a few in today’s episode. The first one that comes to mind is, There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People You Love by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell.
Serena: Yeah, that is a great book. I love that book. It gives you step-by-step practical instructions and even sample dialogues for a variety of situations. One of the authors, Emily McDowell, she has a series of greeting cards for any situation that can be found in some sort of specialty retailers or purchased online. I love these cards. There’s the basic empathy card like, “No card can make this better, but I’m giving you one anyway”. She has cards for specific challenges like illness or loss of a loved one.
Tina: And there are also humorous ones like, “Please let me be the first one to punch the next person who tells you everything happens for a reason”.
Serena: OK, so that’s a great transition into talking about what NOT to say to someone who is suffering. I will acknowledge that people have the best of intentions when they say, “everything happens for a reason”, and this statement does not feel good to the sufferer.
Tina: Right. Anything that’s a cliché or an attempt to “silver-line” the situation is not helpful. Or any statement that starts with, “at least”. Not helpful.
Serena: Mmhm. Another one to avoid…”I know exactly what you’re going through”
Tina: Right. Even if you think you know exactly what the other person is going through, you don’t. We talk about this a lot in terms of approaching others with empathy. The idea of empathy is to “feel with” someone else, but no one can truly walk in anyone else’s shoes. When we are supporting other parents like ourselves, even if we’ve faced a similar situation, we never want to assume how the other person feels about it. Serena and I may have experienced some very similar situations, but have had different reactions to them because we are different people.
Serena: Right. Which brings us to the “fixing” piece. When someone we love is suffering, we desperately want to find a way to fix it. And perhaps that might look like giving advice or sharing something that worked for us. If the other person has asked for this, then I say go for it! Otherwise I would steer clear of trying to fix it for them.
Tina: Mmhm. That one is challenging. Especially when we have to embrace the fact that there is often no way to fix the situation. So we’ve talked a lot about what not to do. Can we switch gears a little bit and talk about what we can do to support other people?
Serena: Yes! So I think the most important part of being there for someone is simply listening. What do you think Tina?
Tina: I totally agree. Listening is underestimated. Listening is always a good first step, especially when you don’t know what to say. And when we say listening, we are not talking about listening while you’re checking your phone or while you’re making a shopping list or while you’re watching TV or a movie.
Serena: Right. That is a good point. It’s also not the kind of listening in which you’re trying to decide on your response while the other person is talking. And I would say that most of us generally listen in that way to one another. This is a really hard thing to let go of. So I would like to say that it is OK if you don’t have a response prepared as soon as the other person stops talking.
Tina: And again, allowing for silence in a conversation can be challenging too. The bottom line is that the person who is struggling should be leading the conversation. You can think of your job, as the supporter, to serve as kind of the container to hold some of the hard stuff for the other person. This often looks less like talking and more like listening.
Serena: Mmhm. There’s another book that I’ve found really helpful and this is one we’ve actually mentioned on the podcast before. It’s called, The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People and that’s written by Rachel Wilkerson Miller. One of the things that she frequently points out in her book is that you need to check in with yourself first before supporting someone else. In fact, the first half of her book is all about how to be there for yourself. This is super important because we know that if you’re not in a good place then it will be hard to provide support to someone else.
Tina: Mmhm. And we talk about this. Making sure you tune in to your own self before you head over to help other people. Super important to check in. So let’s say that you’ve listened and you still don’t know how to respond. What now Serena?
Serena: I think it’s OK to admit that. What do you think?
Tina: Yeah, I think so too. You might say something along the lines of, “I am so sorry that’s happening. How can I best support you?” Or you might even say, “Wow. That is really hard. I don’t even know what to say right now.”
Serena: Right. Right. And I would say that as often as I’ve asked the question, “How can I best support you?”, the answer is usually, “I don’t know”. So then I might follow up with letting the other person know that I’m here for whatever they need, even if that’s just someone to talk to.
Tina: Mmhm. I might suggest something specific I could offer depending on my relationship with the person. For example, I might offer to, my favorite go-to, bring them a meal or you know help them out with something they need to do; a chore or an errand.
Serena: Yeah, I think the most important part is just letting the other person know that you’re there for them and offering your support. That’s what matters. And even if they don’t take you up on that support, it can feel really good to know someone is there if you need it.
Tina: Exactly. And again, I think identifying with the feelings rather than the situation is really the key. This can also help you to be able to remove any judgment from your perspective. For example, a friend comes and tells you about how they’ve been fired from a job. This may not be something within your experience, but you’ve likely had moments in your life that have left you feeling hurt or angry or frustrated. If you can focus on and listen to those feelings, you’re less likely to be thinking about any feelings that you have personally about the situation.
Serena: Right. A great question to ask is, “how are you feeling about that?”. We don’t want to assume how this is for the other person. And don’t forget to check in with that person in the future. Sometimes people receive a lot of support initially and then everyone disappears.
Tina: Right, that’s a very good point. And I would say I would repeat what you just said Serena and that is, if you don’t hear those feelings, don’t be afraid to ask what they are. And don’t assume what they are because that’s hard too. But even just a quick check in after the fact, a week, a couple days. Check in again and ask them how they’re doing and feeling.
Serena: Mmhm. So, to quickly recap what we’ve talked about today...if someone you love is struggling and you want to support them…
Tina: Always check in with yourself first. You need to be in a good place in order to support others.
Serena: Don’t minimize the other person’s pain by using cliches or trying to give the situation a silver lining.
Tina: Yes, you don’t have to make it better because you probably can’t. Do express your support and your willingness to help, whatever that might look like.
Serena: Be a good listener and listen for the feelings.
Tina: Mmhm. Don’t forget to check in on your person in the future.
Serena: And finally, I just want to say, thank you for listening and supporting your people through their struggles.
Tina: Absolutely. We are lucky to have each other, aren’t we. And so podcast friends, we are, as always, very grateful to all of you for listening, really listening, and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leaving a review, and subscribe if you would and share with others. You’ll also find more content on our website, NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Tina: Thanks so much for listening!