Caring for Others in Times of Crisis

Most of us have experienced something difficult at some point in our lives. Major events can trigger grief or crisis. We may also need to support someone close to us who is experiencing something difficult.
Published

It's good to remember that everyone reacts differently when something difficult happens. This is true both during and after an emergency. For some people, this acute reaction is physical and their bodies may no longer feel the way they normally do. They may have tremors, palpitations and difficulty staying still. Others may have the opposite reaction and become frozen.

Acknowledge feelings and thoughts

Some people who are suffering would prefer to withdraw and be left alone. They may find the care of others uncomfortable, or they may not want to take up other people's time. Others who suffer may constantly seek out company and may, for example, be afraid to sleep alone for a while. You, as a family member or close friend, can help by acknowledging their feelings and showing that you are attentive and present, without trying to change their feelings or smooth over the difficulties.

Sometimes, it can be hard to deal with everyday matters when you're going through something difficult. Someone you care for may need help with shopping, paying the bills and maintaining order at home. Try to be as specific as possible when offering them your help or support. For many people who are not feeling well, the question “Can I help you with something?” is too vague to answer. Rather, ask if you can come and drop off some food boxes, go for a walk together, or do something else that you know they usually enjoy. Sometimes, it can feel good to do something completely different and not need to speak about one’s difficulties for a while.

If you are worried about someone

Sometimes, it takes a long while to feel better. The experience of a crisis or extended grieving can develop into depression or lingering trauma. If you are worried that someone close to you may hurt themselves, or if you feel they need more help than those around them can provide, it may be advisable to contact health services.

Sometimes, those caring for others may themselves need help, in order to provide good support. Such help may be sought, for example, from organisations that support the relatives of crisis or illness victims. It is important not to forget one’s own health, even when someone else needs you. The situation or experiences of your loved one may also give rise to unexpected feelings in you. In such cases, you may need support and relief.

Sources: 1177 Vårdguiden and the Swedish Red Cross Agency.