Living a life that is full requires being in connection and relationships with the people and communities around us. Being in relationships with other people on the planet is a large part of what brings joy, success, and pleasure in life.
On the flip side, when a member of your family or community is suffering, the same relationship that once brought you joy can also bring you anxiety, worry, heartbreak, and pain.
A lot of times people try to tell us that when someone else around us is suffering, that it should not impact us. That we shouldn’t have an opinion about it. That we should just let them be and not care. While I am all for healthy boundary setting and detaching from toxic situations, I absolutely disagree with the idea that we can just sit around and have no feelings when someone we love is going through a really hard time.
For that reason, this blog post is dedicated to anyone who loves someone who is currently having a hard time and refuses to get the help they very obviously need (and who is sad that their loved one is in pain).
What to Do When Your Loved One Needs Help and Refuses to Get It:
1. Be Direct
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to who insist that someone in their life is falling apart and needs help (whether it be because of addictions, grief, trauma or other self-defeating patterns), but have never once sat that person down and told them directly about their concerns.
One of the things many of us struggle with at times is wanting the people around us to read our minds. Additionally, when someone is obviously suffering to their friends and family, a lot of times these people assume that the person should just know on faith that everyone around them sees that they are in pain and cares enough to be concerned.
Do you know it is much more common for the people surrounding someone who is suffering to gossip about how much the said party needs help, but to never directly sit that person down, look them in the eye(s) and tell them all about how much they care?
If someone in your community is going through a dark time and it appears they are unwilling to get help, the first step is a conversation. Sit the person down (in-person is ideal, but if it has to be phone let it be phone) and tell them very clearly everything you see in their behaviors, reactions, and choices that have caused you concern. Tell them how much you care about them and how these behaviors are a deviation from their normal patterns and that you didn’t want them to think you had not noticed.
After telling them you care and that you notice, then ask them what they are doing so far to cope (maybe they are getting help and you didn’t know it because you hadn’t yet asked). If they tell you they are doing nothing to cope, let them know you are here for them and ask if they would be open to some suggestions about how you could help them move forward. If they say yes, then great, give them your feedback. If they say no, then you will have no choice but to accept their boundary.
The key in this first step is not in the results you get, but in the being clean, direct, and clear with the person about how you feel, what you see, and your offering of support.
(Note: It is important to do this when you are not heated or triggered by the person. Lashing out at someone is not the way to let them know you care. So make sure to do this when you aren’t in a place where their actions are angering you or making you exceptionally emotional).
2. Recruit Supporters
If you talk to the person who is suffering and that doesn’t seem to go anywhere, the next step would be to talk to other family and friends and see if they are perceiving the person in the same light (and believe they are suffering to the extent that you do). By talking to others, I don’t mean gossiping about the details of your loved one’s problems. I mean checking around to make sure that you and the others who love this person are on the same page.
In asking around, you can first make sure that your perceptions of the situation are the same as the other people’s who care about this person. If they are, you know you are on the right track. If they aren’t, maybe there is more to the story than you currently realize. Maybe they aren’t suffering as much as your perceptions led you to believe, or maybe you are just more in tune with their reactions and struggles than the other people around them.
If the people in your loved one’s life all agree that this party is suffering and needs help, see if you can convince their other friends and family to reach out and let them know that they, too, are concerned.
So many times when people are suffering in life, they are also dealing with demons in their thinking that convince them they are a burden or that nobody cares. I can’t overestimate enough how useful it is for the person to hear from anyone and everyone not only that they care, but that they see that things aren’t okay and that they want to take the time to help.
While the person in your life who is suffering may not have responded when you spoke directly to them about your concerns, they may be more likely to respond if others mirror those same concerns. All of us are more easily convinced of things we cannot see when more and more people around us are mirroring that truth.
3. Put the Focus Back on Yourself
If you have directly addressed your concerns with the person who is suffering (and refusing help), as well as elicited the support of others who care to do the same, you are now at the point of turning the lens off of the other person and putting it back on yourself.
If you have done the above two steps and that person still refuses to get the help they need, you may have to make some decisions. You may have to ask yourself how intensely this person’s self-destruction is impacting your life, what boundaries you need to set around allowing their behaviors to cause you any further pain, and what behaviors you have to engage in that no longer allow this person’s challenges to have such a strong influence on your life.
A lot of the decisions you make surrounding this person and this situation will vary depending on the gravity of their behaviors, the consequences their behaviors have on your daily life, and how much you are able to detach from their challenges, let go of the outcomes, and love them (and yourself) at the same time.
What this comes down to are a few things. First, you only have control over what you say and what you do. Outside of being direct, offering to help and asking those around you to help, there is nothing else you can do to force another person to see where they are or to accept that they are suffering.
Secondly, if that person refuses to get help and you still feel pre-occupied with their choices, then it may be time to consider that you are getting something out of focusing on another person’s problems and avoiding your own feelings, needs and choices. If that is the case, then focusing on yourself and seeking your own professional help may be in order.
While it is very painful to have a member of your community be in pain and refuse help, you are ultimately responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, reactions, and choices. And if you have tried everything in your power to show that person you care and that you are there for them, then the only thing left to do is get your own house of emotions in order and to continue to move forward in your own life.
While this third suggestion may not be what you wanted to hear, it may be the most important step in the process of supporting your loved one who is suffering. Sometimes, when we put the focus back on ourselves and our own challenges (often times actually), that person will see the proverbial light and reach back out for the help they need in their own way and their own time.
It is miraculous what happens to the people and situations around us when we model self-love, self-care, and appropriate boundary setting for our own needs. Even though it may not feel like it at first, loving yourself through this hard time will, ultimately, offer the best outcome for all parties involved.
If you have a loved one who is suffering and you need support to get you through, I can help. Refer to this blog for a complimentary video consultation. Contact me today.