General Question

Jude's avatar

How do you not let someone else's (someone you're extremely close to) pain not affect you so much?

Asked by Jude (32198points) August 5th, 2010

You know that they’re struggling terribly, but, there is only a small amount that you can do? Also, doing/taking on and on thinking about it too much is affecting your life in a negative way?

How do you stop feeling guilty and go about your life knowing that they are suffering?

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22 Answers

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Wow jjmah. I’m bad at this, really. My first reaction is to try to fix or find a solution and then I slow down to just feel them out and be there for them but I do feel guilty and also helpless and a tiny bit intimidated when I don’t see I can affect someone I love and/or care for.

What I’ve learned through NA peops is to stop myself and get distracted doing my own thing until I can digest and accept what is mine to affect and what is more important to let someone else struggle through, be challenged by and learn from. Sigh.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

You don’t. Or, at least, I don’t know how. That’s when you just have to realize that the pain you feel stems from your love for them. It’s a good thing to care, even though it hurts really badly sometimes. That said, even when you hurt, it’s in times like this that you “fake it ‘til you make it”. Being there, and being strong for someone who needs you, is one of the best things that you can do for another human being. Even if you can’t actually fix the situation, they’re going to know, now or down the road, that, “Hey… This person really cares about me” and they’ll appreciate your support.

I’m sorry you’re going through this. ~hugs~

zophu's avatar

If you care about them, you have to share their pain. Do your best to resolve it, for everyone involved.

Jude's avatar

Thank-you, jellies.

I wonder if Dr. Lawrence has been around. Has anyone seen him posting?

Makstatic's avatar

I assist them to the best of my abilities, but I have never felt guilty. You just have to be there for them. Also I have never felt bad myself, I have just been there to be a rock for them, something for them to lean on, someone who is able to cheer them up at least a bit.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Let the other person know you are there if they need you. Then get busy with something else to distract yourself.

Coloma's avatar

Watch out for the co-dependant reactions. Caring is good, allowing yourself to be consumed with anothers stuff is not.

Practice the art of loving detatchment and keep your energy strong, reassure the person you have every confidence they will find their way.

Often when one becomes overly enmeshed in others pain they are ignoring their own and the pain of the other is really their own unexpressed pain.

Jude's avatar

@Coloma In my case, I think that it has to do with the loss of someone close to me (my Mom) and now it’s my sister.

Frenchfry's avatar

When my father was diagnosised with pancreatic cancer. I saw all the pain he was going through I felt helpless. . They was nothing I could do.. I would call the doctor and up his meds. change his meds. I never felt guilty. It was not my fault he had cancer. All you can do is listen and be comforting and hold their hand. Say alot of prayers if you believe in that sort of thing..


How would you want your sister to feel if you were the one suffering? I would imagine she feels the same way you would. I am sure she does not want you to feel guilty or sad. Unfortunately it is what it is. I think you should carry on your life the best you can and help her whenever with what ever you can. If you were my sibling, I would sense your guilt and it would make me feel even worse.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

All I can do is make sure the person is getting the best of care and provide encouragement, moral support and lots of love. Making myself sick isn’t going to help. Like you, I don’t know how to avoid it though. When a close loved one hurts, I hurt. When my wife died, a large part of me died also.

Sending you ((hugs)) and positive energy.

Dr Lawrence is on vacation.

Buttonstc's avatar

I noticed the words alcoholism and addiction in your tags. If that is the situation your loved one is in there is only one thing you can do that will make any lasting difference. Everything else is just band aids.

If you can in any way confront them and persuade them to get into treatment that’s the only thing that will really do anything.

As long as they are in active addiction little progress can be made until their mind can function normally.

Recognize that you are no longer dealing with the person you’ve known all along. You’re dealing with the substance, be it booze, drugs or both.

You didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it. The guilt and confusion you are experiencing is exactly what every loved one of an addict has gone through.

The healthiest thing you can do for yourself is to find an Al Anon group in which you feel comfortable. Go regularly. Develop an ongoing friendship with one or more of the old timers with whom you feel compatible. They have a lot of stability and wisdom to share.

Either that or find a therapist you can trust who will likely make a similar recommendation.

If you can keep yourself stable and inwardly strong you can be of more help to your loved one than if you get sucked into her downward spiral.

Don’t allow yourself to be used in any way which allows her to avoid the consequences of her self-destructive behavior. That’s known as enabling.

Even tho it’s done with the most loving intentions on your part, it just prolongs the addiction. Don’t give financial or legal help.

Consider looking into doing a group intervention with other family and friends. Prepare thoroughly so it isn’t half-assed.

Aside from getting her into treatment, there’s just not a whole lot else that’s truly helpful.

Take care of yourself by getting some support either in a free group or therapist office. This will be of more help to HER than you can possibly

I know that sounds a little strange but it’s absolutely true.

Counter-intuitive perhaps, but true.

Others have experience going down this road. There is really no reason to go it alone.

Jude's avatar

@Buttonstc I’m looking into Nar-Anon right now.

Buttonstc's avatar

That’s good. The title of the group is secondary to how comfortable any particular group is for you.

My personal take on it is that an addict is an addict and the choice of substance is secondary.

Don’t be reluctant to try Al Anon as well. Ideally you want a home base group where you feel comfy. Even tho the purpose is the same, the “character” of a group varies from one to another.

Some people get discouraged if the first group they try doesn’t feel right for them. There are plenty of groups in most locations. Just keep looking until you find one(s) that are right for you.

(kind of like Goldilocks in the bears’ house)

This one is just right.


CMaz's avatar

That’s a life long skill to develop. Eventually growing thick enough skin to not let it get to you. I have that ability. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is not so good.

“stop feeling guilty and go about your life knowing that they are suffering”
Stops happening, when you have had enough of “feeling guilty and others sufferings.”

You have you own guilt and suffering to contend with.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I agree with @Buttonstc , some of the AA affiliated groups are more or less into religiosity than others.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@jjmah: AA, NA, Al Anon and others have wesite chat forums, kind of like fluther and the people really are insightful and supportive. Here’s one I signed up for last year.

Aster's avatar

@ChazMaz and @Coloma thank you. I am so weary of sweating over a family member whose problems are hopeless. I need to concentrate more on my own life but it has been so hard knowing that sometimes crazy is simply crazy. Incurable and devastating to them while causing family-wide pain.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

We went through this about six years ago with a very dear friend. It feels so wonderful when someone can turn it around. She’s been clean over 5½ years now.

zophu's avatar

I was left alone by my family because of a problem they didn’t want to be a part of, (a problem they could have been easily fixed if they weren’t so caught up in their guilt-addicted god-brains to see the reality of the situation. I was a child, so they definitely didn’t have an excuse; but even if I were not a child, I would have preferred being killed over being left alone.

Not that you can’t get away with leaving your troubled family member on their own. They’re not going to be able to put up much of a fight. How are you supposed to get angry at someone for abandoning you? I can’t do it, and it was my own parents who abandoned me.

And you have the benefit of living in a society that is more than ready to embrace the contempt responsible hard-working individuals have for the individuals who just don’t behave. So go ahead. If it’s what you have to do. It’s not a wrong thing to do, necessarily. If you do it out of raw necessity.

Just know what you are doing.

Coloma's avatar

I think that people need to understand that there is nothing that can be done to ‘fix’ another.

If one has exhausted themselves with ‘helping’ behaviors and feels resentful that their ‘help’ has fallen of deaf ears, well…time to let go.

There is a saying I like, that ‘help is the sunny side of control.’

A lot of ‘helpful’ people are really controlling co-dependents trying to extract a sense of their own self worth from a need to be needed, then feeling resentful when the ‘payback’ is not what they think it should be.

It is important to free everyone to fall on their own as well as triumph, I like to remind myself that I really have no idea what another person ‘needs’ and, more importantly, their problems is none of my business anyway.

If I can’t hang with that then I distance myself, it IS that simple. ;-)

snowberry's avatar

I work quite often with people with terminal illnesses.

I can tell you that you must take care of yourself first. Take vitamins, get proper sleep (talk to a doctor for a sleep aid if necessary), and exercise regularly. Take time to get away and keep a proper perspective on the situation. Be a realist. Don’t feed into drama, or let them sink into feeling sorry for him/her self. Don’t YOU feel sorry for them either, because it only feeds the drama! Changing the mood can actually relieve pain by redirecting the focus. If the person will permit it, spend some time laughing together. If not, find a way to tickle your own funny bone. It helps if you can return with a light heart.

In addition, I have found that prayer is very helpful. I pray for myself and them (with them if they will allow it).

If you are not religious, consider meditation.

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