I saw an image once on the internet that has always stuck with me. It’s a series of circles radiating out think of a Target symbol, with more circles. The center of the target is the person dealing with a crisis. As you radiate out, the circles represent the people close to the person and the crisis in the center, getting less and less close to the crisis as they radiate out from the center.
The idea is, if you find yourself somewhere in this target, you are supposed to comfort in, and complain out. You do not complain about the crisis to people who are closer to the crisis than you are. (If you are the center of the target, you have permission to complain to whomever you want.)
Let’s use a concrete example: say your best friend just found out she has cancer. You, being the good friend that you are, help out as much as you can, maybe by bringing food, or visiting, or helping with appointments, or simply being a listening ear. Of course this is stressful on you, and you don’t have to pretend that it isn’t. What you don’t want to do is complain to the wrong people. You don’t gripe to her husband, or the rest of her family, and naturally, not to your best friend. You look outward on your target to your friends, your family, and so on anyone who is further from the center than you are.
This image has helped me numerous times in coping with my own crises and I think it can help others who are coping with a loved one’s crisis.