Nine Ways to Support a Hurting Friend

In this episode:

This episode explores how negative emotions often come with the beautiful ones. Get practical tips for supporting a friend who is sorting through all the emotions that come along with healing from trauma.

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Highlights from Nine Ways to Support a Hurting Friend

  • Have you ever noticed that when you feel excited about a new venture, you have self-criticism along with it?
  • Or when you feel deep love, you fear something will mess it up. Along with happiness comes anger. Gratitude might trigger loneliness or an ache for what might have been.
  • This episode is inspired by my conversation with Bonnie Gray in episode 130.

These are nine tips I put together to be a good friend to someone who is struggling with anxiety, PTSD or other trauma-related challenges.

  1. Understand that their reaction might have much deeper roots than we realize. Don’t take everything personally if they turn negative emotions toward you.
  2. Skip the mantras and offer empathy instead. This means not trying to avoid your own discomfort by changing the subject but instead really feeling and crying with the person.
  3. Seeing anxiety as a human feature and not a flaw. I saw this in a statement on the internet, and it’s so helpful to know that rather than being a flaw to fix, it’s a sign that something is at work inside.
  4. Don’t be an enabler of avoidance. If we encourage friends to lock up the negative emotions or memories again, we enable the avoidance. Ultimately, we lock up the good parts too.
  5. Be a safe place. If someone needs to sort through pieces as they open up old wounds, help them to know you hold their heart in confidence.
  6. Listen to how they want to be supported. If you don’t know, ask how you can be supportive.
  7. Give choices for what you talk about. Would you like to talk about this more today, or would you prefer to just eat popcorn and watch a movie?
  8. Be aware of our own suppressed reactions and how they affect our responses to others.
  9. Educate ourselves. We can learn more about what a friend is going through in order to be a better support.


Sweet Like Jasmine: Finding Identity in a Culture of Loneliness by Bonnie Gray

Wednesdays With Watson Podcast

Wednesdays With Watson podcast is a podcast dedicated to mental health, specifically PTSD. Curated by a PTSD patient and trauma survivor, we seek to bring hope to the crooked roads of hurt and despair.

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Hey friends, it's just me here today, I'm going to go back to something my guest, Bonnie Gray said in last week's episode and camp there for a little bit, because it resonated with me. Do you ever feel as if every time things are going well, you seem to self-sabotage? Or do you experience traumatic emotions when you think you ought to be experiencing pure joy? Maybe you have anxiety when you least expect it. Something Bonnie said last week made me want to reflect on that more this week. And I want to invite you to think about it too. If we lock out all of the bad emotions are the negative thoughts that come up, then we also lock out all of the good emotions and the joy that we might experience in life. So let's talk about that a little bit more as we get rolling with this week's episode. Come on inside and grab a cup of coffee and we'll talk.

You're listening to Life Repurposed, where you'll find practical biblical wisdom for everyday living, creative inspiration and helpful resources. Grow your faith, improve your relationships, discover your purpose and reach your goals, with topics to encourage you to find hope amid the trashy stuff of life. Thanks for joining me today. I'm your host, Michelle Rayburn.

In last week's episode, my guest, Bonnie Gray said something that made me stop and think through it. She said something to the effect of, "We can't open one door of our heart and keep another one locked." I know those weren't her exact words. But it was something along those lines. She was talking about how we can't experience the joy and the wonderful things in our lives without also unlocking the emotions we've hidden away. Think about that. When we experience beauty, we also unlock pain. If you haven't listened to Episode 130, I encourage you to go back and listen. Because Bonnie had so many words of wisdom. And she was really vulnerable with sharing her story, talking about how her past affected her when she became a young mom, and how she's processed through that.

You can find that 130. And you can listen to that episode. It's on all your favorite platforms as well. So in the context of Bonnie's quote, she was talking about how when she became a mother, all these painful things from her past kept bubbling up. And she had anxiety and she started to experience completely unexpected things. She was in a really great season of her life. She had waited a long time to get married. And then she had this really successful career. And she had two little kids at home. But she had locked away painful memories of her childhood. And with it, she also locked up some of her other emotions.

Bonnie discovered that, when she saw a therapist, she was affected by PTSD. She talked about how she said, "I'm not a soldier, how in the world am I having PTSD?" I've heard other people have this very same reaction when they talk about PTSD because we think it's just for people who have been through war experiences. Now, I do want to give a little caveat here: I am not a therapist. So I'm not going to give therapy tips on this show. It's not even my area of expertise. I really like to approach things as how can we practically learn and understand more? How can we be a better friend? How can we understand understand ourselves more? So that's really where I'm coming at with us today.

I do want to explore the idea that good experiences can trigger negative thoughts or emotions. And I want to explore the idea that we can't have the good without the bad. Positive emotions that make us feel good include things like happiness, joy, interest or excitement, curiosity, gratitude, love, contentment. Okay, those are just a few examples. And the negative emotions include things like sadness, anger, loneliness, jealousy, self criticism, fear, rejection. Those can all become really painful things in our lives. Have you ever noticed that when you feel excited about a new venture, you also have self criticism along with it? Or when you feel deep love, you fear that something might mess it up? Along with happiness might come anger, or gratitude might trigger loneliness or an ache for what might have been. You're thankful for what you have now, but you're wishing it could have been different in the past.

Those are just tiny little examples of things we can all probably relate to, even if we haven't been through something that would be classified as so traumatic that we experienced PTSD. I think on a certain level, we can relate to the idea that with the good comes the bad. Listen to some of the phrases that I thought of that relate to how we "cope" with negative experiences and trauma in a way that helps us to stuff it rather than really process it. Here's some expressions: get a grip, pull yourself together, suck it up. Mind over matter, think good thoughts. Send positive vibes. Toughen up, get a thicker skin, girl. Stop being a baby. Bite your lip, so you don't cry.

Bonnie said something to her counselor that this is really kind of where this idea for this episode came from. She said, when she was having this conversation, and the counselor suggested that she might be experiencing PTSD. She said, "Wait, what, wait a minute." Here's her quote. "Everything's good in my life. I mean, I've been through really much worse times. So why would it be happening now?"

And she said, her counselor said, "Well, did you know that a soldier is very strong when he's on the battlefield? He's helping everybody. He's been super resourceful with problem solving. But when does he experienced anxiety and panic attacks? When he's safe when he returns home and he gets off the battlefield."

Bonnie said, "When you're finally in a safe space, you might be experiencing anxiety or depression that you've never experienced before. So now that we have ourney.

The other thing I want to introduce you to is a podcast by my friend Amy Watson. It's called Wednesdays with Watson. I'm gonna link to that in the show notes. Wednesdays with Watson is a podcast that is dedicated to mental health, specifically PTSD. And it's curated by Amy, who is a PTSD trauma survivor. And she seeks to bring hope to the crooked roads of hurt and despair. I love how Amy brings practical topics, really heartfelt, and has goes through different seasons on the show. And so if you haven't listened to Wednesday's with Watson before, you can always go back and binge listen to all of the different topics that she has covered.

So those are two resources for you on your journey of learning to be a helpful friend or maybe processing through PTSD yourself. That is all I have for you on this episode. I'd love it if you would subscribe to my newsletter so that you get all the updates when I put a new podcast episode out there. And you can do that right on the same page as the show notes at So I encourage you to go there and grab all these resources and subscribe while you're there. Have a great day and I'll see you next week.

You've been listening to life repurposed with Michelle Rayburn. Check out tips, resources and inspiration at Michelle to get the show notes for this episode. Each week, I share links to everything mentioned in the episode, graphics you can share, and guest quotes. I also invite you to join the Life Repurposed Facebook community for weekly conversation with others on the journey of discovering the repurposed life. Before you go, which friend needs to hear this episode? Share a link with a note to invite them to listen. And thank you for listening too.

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