Each of us has a story to tell. The way in which we tell our stories is crucial to who we are; for those who have experienced a great many sad and painful events, telling their story can be extremely hard. Our culture is not very welcoming to those who experience suffering. Often our culture seeks to hide suffering underneath a false facade, an illusion that the suffering isn’t happening and that the world is good. This is a false and damaging way to face suffering.
Everyone experiences some suffering in life, the degree of suffering isn’t something that is easily calculated, for how we react to suffering depends entirely on the individual. We all have a different set of tolerances to suffering as well as different personalities, world-views, spirituality or no spirituality, genetics, and hormonal balances. Each of these plays a role in our we react and deal with suffering.
When another person is suffering, our culture often avoids that person, deals with them sparingly, and does not offer help or consolation. It is far rarer to see someone reach out to those in pain – whether it be physical injuries due to abuse or an accident or emotional pain from various types of trauma or even pain from discrimination and hate – than it is to see someone turn and walk away. Hiding one’s suffering is often a way for an individual to feel protected, less vulnerable, but it also can create a feeling of being alone, increasing the likelihood of depression and possibly even suicide.
Suffering isn’t something to be ignored or discounted, for to do so is to leave vulnerable individuals in a downward spiral. Some may cope reasonably well with suffering, others may fall into a deep depression, and still others may even go so far as to consider a way to end their suffering permanently. Each of these are viable reactions to the various types of suffering.
It is my hope that someday we will live in a culture that does not run from the hard topics in life such as suffering. Dealing and coping with our own suffering can be a challenge, but help from others often increases the health and well-being of that individual as well as providing support in a time of need.
How can you help someone who is suffering? First be reaching out. By being a friend, and letting that person know that you are there for them. Ask them what kind of support they may need, and let them know that they can talk with you in private with the confidence that you will be confidential about their suffering. If needed and if the person is open to this, offer them other resources depending on their needs.
Sometimes a person may need a hug or just someone to listen to them without giving advice or criticism. Other times they may wish to just have a fun time doing an activity both of you enjoy. Offering this support will greatly help your friend in need and give them a boost of hope as well as the knowledge that they are not alone in their suffering and people do care for them. Such truths are essential to those who suffer, for it helps them pass through this suffering, to heal, and regain their confidence and/or happiness in life and themselves.
In my links page, I included some resources for those in need.
If asked, I may write a more detailed article on how to offer support. I also hope to update my resources page with more links on providing support for those in need and how to obtain support if you are suffering for any reason. Feel free to check regularly!