How to Support Someone Who is Hurting

I can be a bit of a handful. I was talking to one of my guy friends from college on the phone a few weeks ago, catching up and swapping stories about life (he told me if he ever makes my blog, he wanted me to use the alternate name “Crosby*” for him.

*name has been changed to protect identity

We both had a lot going on and share many similar  personality characteristics, outgoing, highly communicative, and I busted a gut laughing when Crosby said to me,

“Jenna, whoever ends up loving us is in for a wild ride.”

You’re right, Crosby. It will be fun and adventurous and exciting , but it will be a wild one.

From befriending random strangers at the airport, to the ups and downs of functioning in everyday life (struggling to remember the rules of driving, facing my daily battle with portion control), my life is truly an adventure.

On more than 15 occasions someone has said to me, “I feel like this is only the kind of stuff that happens in a movie.” (You can read about such events in my book coming out in *unconfirmed* but most likely year of 2020.)

I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my life, specifically about relationships, but I found the bumpier my life is, the shakier I feel, the more I forget those lessons and tend to make the same mistakes. Ones that I swore I wouldn’t make again. Ones that I learned painful lessons from.

The last month or so has been challenging for me. I have been wrestling with God, struggling to trust Him,  feeling stuck in old patterns and in a sense, feeling like a hypocrite as I am failing to take my own advice of “closing the door” and “getting out of the past.” Day to day it changes, feeling shaky in one moment and solid in another.

I am usually not one to shut people out, but I have found myself building up walls to hide my own insecurities.

I’m a tricky one.

But any time I have gone through hard seasons in life,  I have been wrapped up in so much love and support. There are no words to emphasize the importance and difference a close “tribe” of family and friends makes.

Today was a rough day for me, and a friend made a joke to me about needing to have someone there to emotionally support me (this used to be a full-time position, but now it is more seasonal and on-call/as needed shift #progress).

I said that all I needed was arms, ears and Starbucks.

And over the past few weeks and in every tough season of my life, that is exactly what my amazing support system has been for me.

I don’t pretend to know true suffering. I make that a point to say consistently as I talk about pain or heartache. My circumstances are microscopic in comparison to what millions go through, but to a lost or hurting person, pain is pain.

So what do we do for those who are hurting? How do we support the people we love when they go through tough seasons?

I think I have the answer to this huge question, solely because it has been demonstrated to me in amazing, unbelievable ways:

Arms, Ears and Starbucks.

Arms that welcome openly, without judgment.  Arms that protect with strength but  are gentle in grace. Arms that don’t push away, but pull in. Arms that hold tight, support and even lift on occasion.  Arms that let go when space is needed, but squeeze tighter when it’s not. Arms that carry in the darkest, heaviest times, and nudge you forward when it’s time to start walking again.

I’ve had so many literal, and figurative arms around me in every tough season of my life. Since my last post about struggling with my faith, I have received SO much support and love from more people. Without judgment. Without condemnation. I’ve had the arms of friends around me as I cry on their shoulders. What is more beautiful than that?

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One of my favorite pairs of steady arms.

 

 

And then there are ears.

Ears that really listen. Ears that hear what is being said and allow processing before responding. I have been blessed with incredible listeners lately, who listen to my questions about God (or read, as I am known to send about 17 texts in a row) and just be there. Who don’t respond in order to hurt, or belittle, out of anger or bitter resentment, but out of grace and love.

I have seen the power of listening lately. To my huge questions about God, there really aren’t any answers that I haven’t heard. So my mentor listens to me. My small group leader lets me vent. My mom lets me wonder. My friends acknowledge and validate my questions.

I need to learn the mastery of a  good set of ears. I’ve got a mouth that works like I have two of them, (math has never been my strong suit), so I know what I need to work on.

So often I have much to say to “fix,” but am in awe at the way people have listened to me and all that has meant.

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An example of a ‘conversation’ I had today about my wrestlings with my spiritual mentor and close friend. This is commitment people.

And then there is Starbucks.

Again with the literal and figurative symbolism.

Quite literally, I have had friends put Starbucks (& Biggby, equally as loved) in my hand during seasons of pain. There is little that cannot be made at least a little bit better with Starbucks. It doesn’t fix everything. But it doesn’t hurt anything.

What  coffee is to me could be a million different things, and is different for every person. Little pick me ups, thoughtful text messages, reminders of prayer, surprise gifts from coworkers- these “little things” make SO much difference to someone who is going through a tough season. It’s not enough to make everything better. No coffee is that strong or powerful (still perfecting the water to beans ratio), but it’s enough to make SOMETHING better. Even for a moment.

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I think we all naturally want to fix everything. Fix each other. Fix the hurt. Fix the situation. Right the wrong.

But sometimes life sucks and people hurt and we just need to be there for each other- with arms, ears and Starbucks.

Thank you to my “tribe” who has been all of those things to me and more for my entire life. I am blessed beyond words.

Blessings, not chins

 

Jenna

 

 

 

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