Ivana Savic is Psychologist and Systemic and Family Psychotherapist based in Belgrade.
Actively working with people as a psychotherapist is her calling and mission, together with writing articles on mental health and the psychology of everyday life.
Through writing, she conveys useful messages and shares information related to her expertise and experience of helping people deal with anxiety and depression, stress and burnout, relationships with family, friends and romantic partners, grief, and anger.
Besides counselling, she is a part of non-profit organization teams, working on projects related to young people's mental health.
Considers invaluable experience she got working as part of HR teams in international companies, on the motivation of employees and satisfaction with work and career they are building.
Believes that small changes are the most important and lead to big ones.
Have you ever wanted to comfort someone by texting but thought it wasn’t appropriate or like there were no words that could sound comforting in such a form? – Well, you shouldn’t dismiss texting, as it can be a great way to soothe others and show them your compassion. Let’s check what can help you to comfort your loved ones in such a way.
Avoid ‘I know how you feel right now’ texts
Loss that another person is going through can seem pretty similar to something we have experienced, and we usually want to state that similarity in order to show they are not alone in their pain. Still, loss and pain are always subjective and specific, that’s why you should refrain from writing how you know what they feel. Instead, even if you mention your loss, be curious and ask about their own experiences.
‘ I’m so sorry you lost your job last month so suddenly. How does it feel for you?
‘I have gone through losing a job a year ago, but it can be totally different feeling and situation for you. I want you to know that I’m here if you want to share about it.’
‘I heard about your loss and I wanted to write to you right away. It’s so important to me to know how are you now? I lost my father too and I know how I felt then, but I can’t imagine how is it for you to go through it at this moment. I would love to hear about your experience, whenever you feel like talking about it.’
‘I want you to know that I can see how hard it has been for you to struggle with anxiety for so long. Even though I struggled with it as well and got the support I needed, I don’t want to assume it’s the same for you. I would love to know how best to support you.’
Normalize what they are going through
Unpleasant feelings can put people in a position that they are the only ones to feel in a certain way or to feel weird because of what they are going through. You can often comfort them by just stressing how normal and human it is what they are feeling or doing.
‘You said that your feelings are so mixed right now and you don’t know how exactly you are at the moment. That sounds so normal to me, in a situation you are. Many people would feel the same way. It’s definitely right to allow yourself to feel whatever you feel.’
‘Pain you are feeling can be truly absorbing and overwhelming, it’s unpleasant to say the least. It’s not weird that you are feeling like this, it’s actually really human.’
‘I noticed that you talk about this situation as complex and that you don’t know how to cope with it in the best way. How about accepting the complexity of it and allowing yourself to not know for some time. You don’t need to always find the best way to cope, it’s alright to just find your own way.’
‘If you don’t want or can’t figure out everything right now, you don’t have to. We sometimes just need to live our lives, not necessarily to figure it out.’
Give them ‘permission’ to suffer and heal at their pace
It may sound weird to you that you should give ‘permission’ to someone for their own feelings and experiences. But, people do need to hear that sometimes, as there are various norms and standards in different countries, communities and cultures related to what we can suffer about, for how long, in which way etc. So, you can be that support and reminder that suffering and healing is personal.
‘Hey, I know what you are feeling can be hard to process. I would love you to know that no matter what others may be saying and no matter how much time has passed, you can heal at your own pace. Feel free to give yourself time and space needed, and I’m here to support you with that.’
‘We haven’t seen for a while, I can only imagine what you are going through. Take as much time as you need to take care of yourself, it’s so important. I will be there when you feel ready to share.’
‘Yesterday you sounded like you feel you are behind because of the things happening in your life right now. Please know that you can listen to your needs first and you are the one to decide how you want to express yourself. I completely support you with that.’
Instead of ‘you can do it’, mention what you value in them
It’s totally normal that we want to cheer people up right away and see them smiling or being positive. But, if we truly want to connect with them and give them the space they need, we need to be able to give up an instant positivity type of dialogue. What we can do instead is reminding them what are their values and how valuable they are to us.
‘This is such a hard time you are going through right now. It’s easy in the moment of crisis to forget how valuable you are, and I don’t want you to forget it. I admire how passionate you can be about everything and everyone you love, that your passion becomes contagious. Very often you are a lighthouse to the rest of the family.’
‘This break up obviously hurts you a lot and I’m so sorry you are feeling like that. I just want you to know that I’m proud of you for refusing to love yourself less because of someone else. I love how you are taking care of yourself.’
‘A lot has been happening to you in the past, dear. It seems so important for you to process all of it right now and to deal with it in your own way. You are an example for me of how to not let the past determine my future. You are so much more than what happened to you then.’
‘You have the right to be sad or upset about what happened. Thank you for sharing your feelings with me the other day, it means so much that you can trust me with this. What I really value about you now is how you speak up for yourself, that’s amazing.’
If you know what helped in the past, offer help without forcing them
Perhaps you know there are some activities, places, things or something totally else that was helpful and comforting in the past for the person you are texting to. There is a chance that it won’t be that helpful this time, but you can still offer it. At least, you will show that you care by memorizing what they love and recalling what kind of help they needed before.
‘I’ve been thinking about you a lot these days and I’m so sorry you feel so bad. I remember how walking by the lake and talking felt refreshing for you when you were sad last year. Would you like to go there again and spend some time by the lake?’
‘I know you love to watch movies and not talk when you are sad. I can organize not talking movie time if that is something you would love to do right now. Is that a way I can be there for you right now?’
‘Last time you felt so overwhelmed we took a trip to a random place, do you remember? I’m here for you if you feel like doing that again. You deserve to do what feels right at this moment for yourself.’
‘I’m with you in my thoughts today. Last month we had a great talk about promises you wanted to keep and how encouraging that was for you. I made a special board with those and hoped that can feel encouraging now as well?’
Use your imagination and the power of visualization
Comfort is often needed in the form of touch and physical presence, but it can certainly be impossible at times, which doesn’t mean you can’t use your imagination and the power of us people to visualize things so that you can describe what it would look like if you are there for the person who is suffering.
‘I can’t be there with you at the moment, but I’m with you in my thoughts. I’m there to hold your hand as you are going through these terrible and dark moments. We squeeze our hands at the same time as a signal that we are ok and that we will always be there for each other. Like we used to do when we were kids. I’m with you, my dear, holding your hand and squeezing it.’
‘Knowing that you are sad and crying is making me feel I just want to hug and hold you until it feels a little bit better. That can be as long a hug as you need it, and in silence, as you prefer it. Sending you my tightest hug, until I see you soon.’