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Active v Passive Support

I have just seen a devastating post on facebook about a little boy who has died unexpectedly. In the comments was the statement ‘know that you can message me any time of night or day and I will be here for you’.

Now don’t get me wrong, that’s so clearly heartfelt and sincere, but it made me eye roll a bit.

‘that’s not very kind of you’ I thought to myself, ‘why did you do that?’

Ah. I see.

It’s because it’s the kind of passive support that sounds great but doesn’t actually do a lot. Because here’s the thing. When someone is in the depths of despair, when they are grieving a loss, of whatever kind, when they are suicidal, alone, lonely, broken and wounded, they are unlikely to have the mental strength to reach out to someone and ask for help. They may even feel ashamed of doing so. So when you put the burden of support on the sufferer, it’s not as helpful as taking the burden of support on yourself.

Putting the burden of support on the sufferer, or what I think of as ‘Passive Support’, relies on the injured party reaching out.

When you take the burden of support, or ‘Active Support’ upon yourself, you give space and room for the injured party to feel comforted without having to ask for it.

In grief it can sometimes feel as though you ‘should be over it by now’, and it is then that it is probably hardest. Being an active supporter, you would be the one reaching out consistently. Not always saying ‘I’m here if you want to talk’, but just a ‘how are you doing?’ or sending a funny picture, quote or story. Active is support is being in the background saying ‘I haven’t forgotten about your pain, I’m still here’, without reminding them constantly they have pain.

Active support is suggesting a walk, a coffee, a quiet place where tears won’t feel shamed into submission.

Active support is strong and silent but there. Active support isn’t rescuing, fixing or overwhelming, it’s respectful, holding and peaceful.

Reach out to those around you. Just a ‘how are you?’ can be so well timed that you may help without ever knowing. Please don’t expect someone who is struggling to tell you, don’t be passive, be active.

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