Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post written by Whitney Hollingshead. Life as Leels received some form of compensation in exchange for this post.
Watching from the sidelines as someone you care about goes through something difficult can be one of the most trying challenges of life. When you know something is wrong, but can’t provide a permanent fix to the problem, you may feel helpless. Such a challenge occurs when someone you love is sad or depressed. In order to help in constructive ways, you need to understand the difference between sadness and depression.
Everyone feels sad or emotionally upset at times. When sad or hard things happen, feeling sad is a natural response. Consequently, sadness should be connected to a cause. When someone is sad they can usually trace their feelings back to an event or experience. Someone who is sad should also be able to explain how they feel to another person.
While being sad is a normal part of life, periods of sadness can be especially hard for any individual to endure. Sadness can be profoundly difficult to face when the sadness is brought on by news of a terminal illness, death, or any major life disappointment. However, even sadness brought on by extremely tragic events should not be all consuming and last for long periods of time.
Helping Someone Who is Sad
Here are two key ways that you can help someone who is sad:
1. Be quick to listen and slow to advise. Sadness usually needs to run its course. One of the worst things you can do is suggest that your loved one should not be sad. Trying to fix the cause of the sadness, or expecting your loved one to react in certain ways will most likely harm the relationship. Focus instead on providing a listening ear free of all judgment.
If you do have to respond, simply convey that you know what they are going through is hard and that you are always willing to listen and help in any way you can. Do not offer advice, unless the advice is requested specifically, and even then proceed with extreme sensitivity and caution.
2. Show you care. Write notes, send text messages, drop cards in the mail, or call on the phone. Keep your messages short and heartfelt. Express that you are thinking about them. These messages and calls will probably be even more helpful as time goes on. Invite your loved one to join you for common outings and activities whenever possible.
While someone may have a lot of support when they are obviously sad or grieving, that support will dwindle over time. Show you truly care by keeping your contact consistent even when things start to improve.
The key difference between sadness and depression is that depression lasts for weeks at a time. Depression will keep an individual from participating in normal activities for long periods of time. While sadness can generally be traced to a specific cause, like the death of a loved one, depression is much more difficult to trace to any known cause. Those who struggle with depression often have a difficult time explaining their feelings.
Here are some of the common symptoms associated with depression:
- Persistent sadness that does not improve for weeks
- Fatigue, dramatic decrease in energy
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Lack of pleasure
- Frequently feeling worthless or guilty
- Major changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
- General achiness
- Significant change in weight
- Frequently thinking about death
Helping Someone Who is Depressed
As explained here, depression is a disorder that affects both the mind and the body. Understanding that depression is real and quite complex is the first step in being able to help someone you love who is suffering with depression. Here are some other key ways that you can help:
1. Convey sincerely that the individual is not alone in what they are facing. Tell your loved one that you know their battle is hard, but that you will not abandon them. Reinforce them often by using phrases like, “We’ll get through this together.”
2. Express how much the person means to you. If you really love the person involved, tell them and tell them often. Whether saying “I love you” is appropriate or not, the key is to communicate that you appreciate them and care about them. Express gratitude for the many positive ways they contribute to your life.
3. Do not suggest that you know how they feel. Even if you have been sad or depressed for short amounts of time, you don’t know exactly what your loved one is facing. Resist the temptation to express that you understand what they are feeling and offer compassion instead of understanding. Never suggest that depression is their fault or that they need to get over the problem.
4. Express optimism. Tell your loved one that they are not crazy and that you understand that depression is real. Also convey that you know that they can get through this challenge and that hope is also very real.
5. Don’t ever make comparisons. You may be tempted to help your loved one find perspective by suggesting that someone is worse off than they are. You may also be tempted to discuss how everyone has challenges and that life is not fair. Such statements and suggestions can be incredibly damaging to the healing process. If you find yourself on the verge of making any comparison, hold your tongue instead.
Sadness and depression are both very real. In using the recommendations above, you can provide real help to those around you who are struggling.