“And now my life seeps away. Depression haunts my days.”
One of the hardest things to do is watch a loved one who is exhibiting signs of depression. You know something is wrong, but you don’t know what it is. You try to remember if they told you about any situations or relationships that may have caused the issue, but you can’t come up with anything. It’s hard to know what to do or what to say. You don’t want to say the wrong thing, but you don’t always know what the right thing is either. This is especially true if they either don’t acknowledge it or don’t want to talk about it. Sometimes our loved ones do acknowledge it and push us away.
So, what are some good ways to respond to a person with depression?
1. Ask if they want to talk about it.
Start by asking your loved one if they want to talk about it. If they say “No.” then let it rest. They may get agitated or defensive but don’t take it personally. Giving them some space will be the best thing for them and eventually, they may come and talk to you. If they do choose to talk to you, sit down with them and give them your undivided attention. Look them in the eyes so they know that you are listening to every word they say.
2. Tell them they are not alone.
Let your loved one know that they are not alone. Depression can be isolating and many people feel they have to handle it on their own. They feel like others will not understand or make light of their situation. By telling them they are not alone, it lets them know that they have your support.
3. Ask if they would like a hug.
Sometimes hugs are like a balm to the soul. They have healing powers that words sometimes don’t. The simplest act of physical touch-hugs, hand holding, etc can make a world of difference and enhance your loved one’s security in their relationship with you. Don’t underestimate the power of something so simple.
4. Don’t ask why.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but here is why I say this. I have a friend who suffers from depression. One of the things he appreciates most about me is that I never ask why he is depressed. I never push or ask a lot of questions. I let him know that I am sorry he is feeling this way and that I am here for him when he needs me. If he chooses, he can come to me and explain why he is feeling the way he is. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. And that is okay. However, not asking why keeps the lines of our communication open.
5. Remind them that they have worth and value.
Remind your loved one of their worth and how much not only you love them but Jesus loves them as well. Remind them that you see more than the depression they are going through, you see them as Jesus does, for we have great worth to him. Let your loved one know how valuable they are to you, those around them, and Jesus. Let them know the ways they bring value to the world and to the relationships around them. Tell them they are priceless.
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold … but with the precious blood of Christ”.
(And if God was willing to pay the highest price in the universe to redeem them, then they are truly of infinite value.)
6. Remind them that they are important.
Tell your loved one how important they are. Reflect on the ways they are important to those around them and in their community. For example, if they were not a great leader at their company or a committed volunteer at the animal shelter, it wouldn’t be the same because of their unique contribution to society everyday. Tell them how important they are to you too.
7. Ask them how you can best help them.
Sometimes it’s easy for us just to assume what people need. Ask your loved one how you can best help them and listen closely. The answer you may hear may be hard to swallow (“I just want to be alone.” or “I don’t want to talk to anyone.”) but try to respect their needs as much as you can.
8. Tell them they are loved.
I often will tell my friends who suffer depression that they are loved more than they could ever comprehend. I also remind them that I can still see the best in them even if they can’t in this particular time and place. They also know that there is nothing they could ever do to push me away. I strive to love them like Jesus loves me.
9. Help them find resources.
If your loved one has decided that they need help, offer to assist them with finding the right resources. There is a chance they may be feeling too bad to do it themselves. Remember that the fact that they have come to this realization in the first place is a good step in them getting better. You may even want to offer to go with them and take the first step for support.
Depression can be a delicate thing. Watching your loved one suffer is so hard, and yet, it is easy to still be at a loss. Are you still struggling with not knowing what to say or what to do? You can pray right now.
You know my heart is breaking for my loved one and you see the pain they are going through. You know that I want to help but I am at a loss as to what to do. Please help me in this situation with my loved one. Please give me the wisdom and discernment to hear your voice as to what I should say or do. Soften my heart so that I can empathize with them and give them the best comfort possible. Please help them to see my questions and reminders as a way of showing how much I care for them and not to be overbearing. If they need help finding resources, please bring them to my attention in such a way that I will know they came from you. If it is your will that I accompany my loved one to their first doctor’s or counseling appointment, please help my loved one to open up to me. I pray for peace, comfort, wisdom and healing for all parties involved. In your name I pray. Amen.
Carrie Lowrance is a freelance writer and author. She has been featured on Huffington Post, Bon Bon Break, The Penny Hoarder, Parentmap, etc. She is also the author of three books of poetry and one children’s book, Don’t Eat Your Boogers (You’ll Turn Green). She writes her own child care blog at www.freelancebylowrance.com.