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When Someone You Care About is Sad or Depressed

When Someone You Love is Sad or Depressed

When someone you love is sad, listening with empathy is most important.

“You should have six friends because when you really need them, five will be busy.”

~ Psychiatrist Daniel Casriel

by Seth Eisenberg

Emotional ups and downs are a natural part of life just like the waves are a natural part of the ocean.

Feeling sad, angry or scared sometimes doesn’t mean someone is mentally ill, broken, or defective. Too often, people experiencing very normal responses to the events of their lives turn to prescriptions, alcohol, professional counselors, or bury themselves in work when what they really need is a trusted friend or family member who will listen.

With the best of intentions, instead of listening with empathy for what someone is feeling and experiencing when they’re sad or frustrated, we instead try to talk to them or tell them how to fix things. That response can cause others to bottle up feelings such as anger, fear and sadness even more and lead to real suffering.

Practical Tool to Help Loved One Find Relief from Painful Emotions

Whether you’re celebrating a great accomplishment or feeling down for any number of reasons, we all need someone in our life we can turn to who will listen with empathy and understanding. Emotional openness is the first part of bonding, which is the heart of intimacy.

Making it safe for others to confide by being a good listener is one of the most valuable gifts we can give the people we love.

Psychiatrist Daniel Casriel, author of a Scream Away From Happiness, said we should each have six friends because when you really need them, five will be busy.

When someone you care about is mad, sad, scared, or depressed, it’s important not to say the wrong thing. Learning to listen without giving unwanted advice, counseling, psychoanalyzing, or interjecting your own stories and concerns is often the best prescription for a loved one who is feeling down.

Below is a list of helpful things to say, followed by what not to say, when someone you care about is feeling sad or depressed, courtesy of the Depression Alliance.

I’m here for you

What to say:
You’re not alone in this.

What NOT to say:
There’s always someone worse off than you are.

You matter

What to say:
You are important to me.

What NOT to say:
No one ever said that life was fair.

Let me help

What to say:
Do you want a hug?

What NOT to say:
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Depression is real

What to say:
You are not going crazy.

What NOT to say:
So you’re depressed. Aren’t you always?

There is hope

What to say:
We are not on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through.

What NOT to say:
Try not to be so depressed.

You can survive this

What to say:
When all this is over, I’ll still be here and so will you.

What NOT to say:
It’s your own fault.

I’ll do my best to understand

What to say:
I can’t really understand what you are feeling, but I can offer my compassion.

What NOT to say:
Believe me, I know how you feel. I was depressed once for several days.

You won’t drive me away

What to say:
I’m not going to leave you or abandon you.

What NOT to say:
I think your depression is a way of punishing us.

I care about you

What to say:
I love you. (Say this only if you mean it.)

What NOT to say:
Haven’t you grown tired of all this “me, me, me” stuff yet?

We’ll get through this together

What to say:
I’m sorry that you’re in so much pain. I am not going to leave you. I am going to take care of myself, so you don’t need to worry that your pain might hurt me.

What NOT to say:
Have you tried chamomile tea?

RELATED:

Five Tips for Good Listening

It Gets Better with Listening

Daily Temperature Reading

10 Things to Say (and 10 Not to Say) to Someone With Depression

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