• La Shawn Splane-Wilburn

7 Steps To Being A Loving Support To Loved Ones On Valentine’s Day

"Healing yourself is connected with healing others." - Yoko Ono

When you speak to caregivers about the most challenging part of their journey you will get different angles because as unique as mental illness is, our loved ones and the way they cope with negative symptoms are just as unique. We all have however something in common and that is the holidays can bring about anxiety. I covered during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays the effects that holiday stress can have on our loved ones, and ways we can be of the best support to them. I spoke with loads of caregivers during that time who said the holidays are the most difficult times they have in their caregiving journey.

Many of our loved ones are at some point and time during this journey finding themselves coping with relationship issues, and sad to say some find themselves alone after having suffered a nasty divorce or breakup. This is one of the facts no one want to talk about. It’s a fact that many who are married to a loved one with a mental illness have at one time or another considered separation as an option, or have left hoping to “jolt” their mate into going to therapy or becoming compliant…that is a discussion for a later time.

We are upon one of the holidays that strikes most the feelings of loneliness for so many people, and many are not battling a mental illness, it’s just part of life. At some point or another we have all found ourselves at a crossroads or at the tail end of a failed relationship, and if you haven’t count yourself very blessed; know that this message is not for you but that you can use the information to help a friend or family member who may be struggling with heartache or heartbreak this Valentine’s Day holiday.

One of the most important acts of love is to remind someone how important they are and how loved they are. We all want to feel loved and part of a circle of family or friends who care deeply for us and our well-being. As family caregivers we come to understand how the illness affects our loved ones and we, if we want to avoid stressful situations for our loved ones and our family as a whole, work hard to accommodate loved ones during this time. Leave it to many professionals who tell us not to make accommodations that include giving up more of our time because we don’t want our loved one to feel as if they are placing a burden on us and their families and therefore wind up feeling guilty.

I feel that is not the way to handle the support of our loved ones. We need to let them tell us what it is they desire and work to accommodate especially if they are in a very delicate state between maintaining and falling into relapse. They will not always require such intense support for the times that they do, it’s great to know people are there and caring for how they are doing.

What is the best way to be of support to a loved one who may be heartbroken and battling negative symptoms of their illness during Valentine’s Day? Below are some tips on how you can help to ease the stress and emotional pain a loved one may experience:

  1. Our loved one know how they feel, they don’t need us to interpret what they are feeling. If we listen they will tell us. Ask how they are feeling about the holiday coming up and would they like to join you for dinner or whatever you plan to get them out of the house and out of a low mood.

  2. Respect how they feel. It is not up to us to determine when they should stop feeling emotional pain about what they experienced with a breakup. Listen when they talk about what they feel, express concern and understanding without patronizing them. Saying, “I can understand how that would be painful”, instead of “shouldn’t you be over this by now?” is a better way to be there as a means of emotional support.

  3. Write a love letter telling your loved one of all of the personal qualities about them that you love, and why they are so important to you and to their family and friends.

  4. Do chores for them that may be difficult during negative symptom moments like laundry or light clean up around the house? Cooking a meal and dropping by to give it to them is also an option.

  5. Gifting art supplies like adult coloring books or sketch pads with pencils are a great way to help a loved one struggling with depression.

  6. Take your loved one on a "Random Acts of Kindness" excursion to give Valentine notes and small chocolates attached and leave all over parks or mall benches and watch the reactions of people who enjoy them.

  7. Arrange a potluck and invite friends over to have karaoke or board games.

It’s difficult to suffer heartache and even more difficult when a loved one places unrealistic expectations on themselves or their family places unrealistic expectations on them for when they should be over the emotional pain of a failed relationship. Each person grieves in their own way. Studies show it’s important to talk openly and honestly about being in emotional pain because it helps with healing.

Remember it’s all about being support for a loved one during what can be a very challenging time in their life. If a loved one wants to stay home and relax take the cue and leave them be, by this time you should be aware of whether or not a loved one is in trouble or not, and can give them their privacy. The most important part of the support we give to our loved ones is the love and acceptance for who they are not what they have as a diagnosis or what they are struggling with. Just being there no matter what or how hard it gets, is the ultimate love gift we can give.

Wishing you a very successful holiday with your loved one, may the days bless us with whatever makes us successful, and may God bless us all real good.

Are you or someone you know struggling with the care and the care demands of a loved one with mental illness? I understand the challenges faced on the journey to helping a lvoed one to nagivate the road to mental health recovery. On March 15, 2016 there is a caregiver training called "Breaking The Time Bank" which focuses on your self care and the restructuring of your caregiving day that allows for the care of your loved one and a life outside of caregiving for you. The deadline to register is March 14, 2016. The amount of information and structure you receive in this challenge will empower you for years into your caregiving journey and affect other aspects of your personal development!

La Shawn is a Mental Health Survivor & Mental Health Family Caregiver. Although her passion has always been to help those in need, Homagi began 12 years ago as a non profit for homeless women and children, she chose to use her experience as a Mental Health Family Caregiver to guide other family caregivers on their journey as they assist their loved ones on theirs. She is known for her vibrant smile, easy going personality, positive attitude, and servant spirit. Always willing to stop and listen or share an experience with others, you feel heard and appreciated. Don't let those characteristics fool you into believing she's not an advocate who will stand up, march, and make the voice of the sometimes voiceless heard. A California native, now a Houstonian she loves the beach, hiking, crocheting and woodwork. She is married to her best friend and co-pilots their blended family of 5 children and 3 granddaughters.

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