“Don’t just do something, stand there!” – Marshall Rosenberg
The biggest mistake people make is thinking they have to DO something, they have to HELP (i.e. FIX) the person who is depressed. And you can’t. You just can’t. What actually heals people is being HEARD, really and truly heard and believed and understood. Those silences you think you have to fill? Don’t. Your depressed friend is lost in a million whirling thoughts, they’re not waiting for you to speak some wisdom. All you need do is listen, and resist the urge to give advice or fix or judge in any way.
Your compassionate presence is all that is required. It’s not about taking the pain away – it’s about being willing to be in their pain WITH THEM.
Sarah Peyton taught me that what empathy really means is saying to someone with all your heart, “Yes! Of course! You make sense!” … that’s what your depressed friends needs to hear. That no matter what they’re feeling, it makes sense. Your acceptance can help them find their own acceptance, and it’s only acceptance that truly reduces suffering (because suffering is created by resistance to what IS).