It can be hard to know how to support a friend going through a tough time in life. Do you allow some space or show up with groceries? Is it overstepping to offer advice, or does it show you care? Sometimes it can be difficult to know the right thing to say, or the right ways to help that go beyond simple platitudes.
Because difficult events like an illness, death in the family, job loss, divorce or another type of suffering can happen when you least expect them, you don’t always have time to think through the proper response. With that in mind, here are six ideas to file away for supporting a friend in need for when the time comes:
Make Yourself Available
It might sound simple, but one of the best things you can do is be available. Tell your friend that you’re willing to help. Not everybody responds to tough times the same way. Some folks want to talk, and some want space. Be patient. If you’ve said that you’re available, they can call whenever they’re ready.
If your friend is up for talking, listen. Whether you talk on the phone or while walking in the park, listening is a crucial way to love. Offer your full attention. Remove distractions. Put your phone away. Keep the focus on your friend.
Avoid Giving Advice
Because you care about your friend, it’ll be hard not to offer advice. When someone is hurting, they’re not always looking to hear your take on the matter. Unless your friend directly asks for your opinion, your best bet is to just listen and affirm, and keep your thoughts to yourself.
Meet Physical Needs
When you drop off that home-cooked meal for four or volunteer to come water the yard every few days, you show that you see what’s happening, and it matters. What’s more, for friends who are too overwhelmed to even know what to ask for, your ability to take initiative could end up being the timely gift they didn’t know they needed.
Write a Note
Even if your friend isn’t up for visitors or lives too far for you to stop by, a note provides a way to demonstrate compassion and care. Take the time to write your friend a few words of affection and drop it in the mail. This reminds your friend that even if you’re far away, you still care.
Check In Often
When tough times hit, it’s all too easy to want to help initially and then move on with life. Try not to do this. In today’s tech-driven society, it’s more convenient than ever to send over a text message or email that says you’re still thinking about what they’re facing. Check in with your friend often to reiterate that you care.
Nobody likes to see a friend hurting, especially when you feel powerless to help. When someone you care about is going through a tough time, remember these ideas for showing love during difficulty.