How do you know when you see someone in pain, crisis, or grief?

Our world has changed and what we knew is gone. The global pandemic has changed nearly everything we once thought was normal. As a result many nations are experiencing not just a mental health crisis, but a social and community crisis. Just search online for current statistics of people in pain, crisis, or grief, and you will find estimates that are growing. Nearly 1 in 7 people meet the criteria for a psychiatric disorder, for every death attributed to COVID-19 there are 9 loved ones who grief their loss, there are millions of jobs that may not return, and the impact on classroom learning continues to be felt.  

That’s why you are so important. If you can know when you see someone in pain, crisis, or grief, then you can help be a force for hope and healing. 

Knowing = noticing and being present 

Start with noticing and truly seeing those around you. So how do you know when you see someone in pain, crisis, or grief? It could look like –

  • Disruptions in identity or how we see ourselves
  • Changes in sleep and/or in appetite
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Hopelessness or guilty thoughts
  • Changes in activity level
  • Thoughts of suicide or other self-harm thoughts
  • Sadness, “the Blahs’”, or on the flip side: Anger, Irritability
  • Confusion, Apathy or on the flip side: bossiness or controlling behaviors

It’s tough to know exactly what it could look like because pain, crisis, and grief are personal. Twenty people can experience the same event or situation and have twenty different experiences. Even though pain, crisis, and grief are very individual, there is 1 unifying experience it seems: identity gets impacted. The impact on a person’s identity when they are in pain, crisis, or grief is intense. That may come out with wondering what does this mean for me, what does this mean about me, what does this mean for everyone in my world…and similar identity questions. People in pain, crisis, and grief will often wrestle with at least relational identity grief, social identity grief, and spiritual identity grief. 

So these signs are a starting place for a conversation.  

As you notice and see someone in pain, crisis, or grief, take the next steps to be present with them. What could you say and do –

  • Be curious and compassionate to create conversational connections – Remember when Curiosity is paired with Comfort it leads to Compassion. Compassion leads to Connection.
  • You could say something like one of these basic statements – 
    1. “I get the feeling things are hard for you today. I care about you. Want to talk or take a walk?”
    2. “I care about you and I’m seeing this in you [pick one or two of the signs]. I’m curious how I can help.”
  • What you say depends on if you know the person and you also know what may have happened recently to bring about the pain, crisis, or grief. Those basic statements can then become more specific to the current situation. 
    1. For example, if you know the person has recently experienced a loss, you may want to provide affirmation for the experience. That could sound something like –  “I understand you recently lost ____ and I can tell you’re hurting. It makes sense how it hurts. I don’t understand, but I’m here with you.” 

3 very important things about you – Once you have noticed and seen that someone is in pain, crisis, or grief and you have stopped to be present with them, you need to keep these three very important things in mind about you. 

1. Your role is not to fix this for them or to fix them. 

2. Your role is to be a helper. A helper is not a person with answers or advice, but a helper is a person who provides connection and compassion. 

3. Then what you say is: “I’m not here to fix this. I’m here to be with you, to listen, and to help you find next steps to hope and healing.”

  1. The important phrases here are: I’m not here to fix, I’m here to be with you, to listen, to help, next steps, hope and healing.

Also, keep in mind these three foundational statements – 

1. God wants to heal you and bring healing to those who are in pain, grief, and suffering.

2. We are each ministers, partnering with God to build the kingdom so that all may know him.

3. Caring for others is always done together so include others in healthy and helpful ways. 

Now when you see someone in pain, crisis, or grief, you can connect with them. Hurting people are all around you. Learn how to recognize the signs, know what to say, and how to say it to be a force for tangible hope and sustainable healing. 

Take it to the next step!

  • Sign up for the newsletter and watch my free video series “Keys to connect and care for people experiencing loneliness and depression” 

Come Alongside is a care ministry training workshop that equips individuals and ministry leaders with the skills to strengthen compassion through proven clinical counseling methods, combined with Biblical principles and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. 

“That is why I created Come Alongside; to see every believer care for people inside and outside the church with authentic connection, healthy responses, practical encouragement, and proper equipping.” Liz Lawrence, Come Alongside Creator, MA, LPC-S 

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Do you want to confidently care for those around you?

It’s hard to know what to say or how to say it when people are going through loneliness and depression. Get our free 3 part video series “Keys to Connect and Care for People Experiencing Loneliness and Depression”.  Including 3, 7-minute training videos plus 3 PDF’s with all the Keys.

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