How To Support People with Illness Part 2

how to support a loved one when they're hurting. Supporting people with illness, grief or pain. text on top of photo of blue tea pot and willow patterned tea cup, rose tea and silver spoon

Pain, like chronic illness, accidents, grief and trauma are so very challenging, and so is supporting someone experiencing one of those struggles.

They are hurting and often you don’t know what they need, what to do, what to say. All you know is that you don’t want them to hurt more.

At Healing Boxes we are veterans of the struggles that ill-health and life challenge can bring and we have supported thousands in living well and finding comfort and support in the darkest times. And we’d like to share that hard-won wisdom with you here.

Today we are talking about supporting people with mental health challenges, grief and trauma and supporting yourself if you are living with an illness or struggle.

Check out part one on supporting people living with acute illness, chronic illness or serious/life limiting illness.

Forest - How To Support People with Illness Part 2

Mental Health Challenges

We want to support people with mental health challenges but we struggle with the definition of ‘mental’ health challenge. Because why differentiate between a problem in the mind and say, the foot? Both can be devastating, both can be supported. However, without another option we continue to use Mental Health Challenges but in no way consider them lesser than non-mental health challenges.

Living with mental health challenges can be incredibly difficult, lonely and time consuming. Although things have improved vastly there can still be stigma and it can still be a very frightening and isolating experience.


– Offering acknowledgement and care.

Listening and not trying to fix them.

– Accepting that things may fluctuate.

Saying they “have” a mental illness rather than “are” a mental illness e.g “they are psychotic”.

– They may still struggle with day to day tasks. Just because they may have practically managed something on one day doesn’t mean they will always be able to do it – it’s obvious to offer support to someone with a broken arm but let’s extend it to all who are hurting.

– Don’t try and talk them into being happy. Allow people their feelings. If you are uncomfortable with them, you can get support too.

Allow them meaning and passion.

Broad tree in the sun - How To Support People with Illness Part 2


Grief can arise from the death of a loved one, the loss of the life you knew before diagnosis, grief over the ending of a time in your life, a career, a relationship, the loss of a home, an animal, an opportunity…

Grief can feel hot and destructive, cold and numbing and 1000 things more, it can be a very lonely place especially if people around you are uncomfortable with such pain or don’t know what to say.


– Being there, not disappearing.

– Talking about their loved one. Although you may not want to upset someone by bringing up a passed loved one, it can be just as difficult for people dealing with grief when others around them continually avoid mentioning the name a the person they’re grieving, or changing the topic if ever they come up. If in doubt, try to gently take your cues from them.

– Allowing the person their grief, not trying to fix them, not telling them to get over it.

Celebrate their Second Firsts when they arrive there.

– Not minimising the grief, not trying to ameliorate the pain as, early on, that can land as their pain being rejected, squashed, oppressed, unheard.

Allowing them to grieve their loss, whatever it is.

Unfocussed light on water - How To Support People with Illness Part 2


[Trigger Warning: traumatic experiences mentioned]

Trauma is being recognised more and more and for that we are very glad as surviving a traumatic experience can be incredibly harrowing and support and help need to be made available.

Many people wonder, what is trauma? Is what I lived through trauma? The deeper question: is my pain and suffering valid?

These are important questions, and beyond the scope of the blog, but we can say that trauma can arise from emotional, mental and physical struggles. Someone could be traumatised by being mugged or attacked, by surviving intimate partner violence, going through a job loss or divorce, a near-death experience, a difficult diagnosis, a tour of duty, a car accident, experiencing sexual or physical abuse, rape, having an accident, being bullied, living through a natural disaster or terror attack or something else entirely. It may not “look” like something you’d imagine could trigger a trauma, but trauma can arise from all sorts of incidences.

Addressing the deeper question: we see and acknowledge your pain and suffering, it’s valid and real and we believe you deserve support.


– Offering acknowledgement and care. What they’re experiencing may not seem like the traditionally accepted image of trauma, but as trauma can cover such a broad array of experiences, acknowledging and accepting their struggle can make a big difference.

Listening and not trying to fix them.

– Acceptance, of how they are, how they feel that day…

– Practical help – such as an eye mask, audio book or podcast, or perhaps a dvd.

Inclusion and understanding.

Building resilience and finding the support needed.

[Trauma Trigger Warning Over]



Supporting yourself when living with any illness or pain is a wearing but present experience.

What can it involve? Allowing yourself to recognise and respect your current limits, listening, loving, not blaming, caring and treating yourself as you would a friend.

Make yourself a Self-Care Box.

Check out our free, virtual Self-Care Kit Healing Box here.

Check out the amazing book, The Selfish Pig’s Guide to Caring. It’s ok, it’s not for ‘selfish pigs’, it’s for people who care. Your ‘piglet’ is your “Person I Give Love & Endless Therapy to’.

Investigate finding magic alongside life struggles.

General Support

Help us ease suffering and spread the word about Healing Boxes.

Please take this opportunity to support someone in your life with illness – make a phone call, give a hug, send them a Healing Box, or treat yourself to one. That surprise of love and kindness delivered to their doorstep can make all the difference in making a hard day bearable.

Subscribe to our newsletter for more tips from decades of living with illness and of course, help on supporting yourself if you are living with any of these struggles.

If this article was useful, check out part one on supporting people living with acute illness, chronic illness or serious/life limiting illness.


Photo Credits
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