If there’s anything sure about this life, it’s change. Sometimes, it’s good. Sometimes, it’s bad. Sometimes, it’s unimaginable. That’s the thing about life. There’s the high. There’s the low. Then, there are the unexpected blows….sickness, death, break-up, job-loss, divorce, and the like. As is natural, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve witnessed more lows both for myself and people I love. This is not because life’s misfortunes didn’t occur during childhood, it’s more so that I was more protected as a child.
What I’ve noticed is that misfortune not only creates pain for the person experiencing it, it creates awkwardness for some friends and family. Granted, difficult times show who true family and friends are, because a good number of people disappear. However, there are a select few who disappear not because they don’t want to support you, but because they don’t know how to. They fear they’ll say or do the wrong thing. They feel like they are powerless to help. What they don’t know is that they don’t have to do too much. It’s the little things that count.
In that sense, this post is dedicated to inspiring how to support people going through difficult times.
1. Reach out: The first step to take when you hear someone is going through a difficult time is to call, text, email or offer to visit. Even if you can’t visit, there’s nothing as precious as letting them know you are thinking about them, praying for them and that they are not alone.
2. Be proactive: Beyond making contact, actually DO something. Send a card, bring food or drinks, send money, run errands, show up and help around their house. Ditch the “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”. This generic offer almost never yields any actual help. Your friend or family member, in their state of loss, will hardly remember that they even need to eat or clean or pay the bills, talk less of actually remembering that you are available to help.
3. Listen Good: You don’t have to say much especially when someone is grieving. Actually, say as little as you can. Stay away from talking about yourself or tying what your friend/family is going through with what you went through, unless they ask. Sometimes, all a person needs is company to listen.
4. Be there no matter what: If you can, visit and just be. Night time is usually the toughest for people who are going through a crisis. Spend the night if you can afford to. I remember when I lost my dad, one of my friends would show up almost everyday to just lay with me. If I wanted to eat, we’d eat together. If I wanted to listen to music, we’d do that together. If I wanted to watch TV, we’d do that. If I wanted to cry, she’d bear with me. All I needed was her presence and it went a long way.
5. Be Mindful of Your Words: Dont claim to know how they feel. Every situation is unique. Don’t argue. It makes the situation worse. Be sensitive to triggers. Some special words or experiences may trigger sadness so don’t dwell on the details of their incident unless they are driving the conversation. Use encouraging words/sentences. For e.g. “You will get through this” and “You are strong beyond your imagination”.
6. Supportively Guide Them Back to Normal: After a couple of days/weeks (depending on the crisis), gently start encouraging your friend or family to go back to basic functions…eating regularly, going to the gym, or maybe taking a walk. Key word “Gently”. Again, don’t push, just suggest. Let them be the one to make the decision.
7. Don’t Judge: Be patient. Pray with them. Have emotional empathy. Judgment can cloud or even preclude compassion. Not everyone grieves the same way. Let them cry if they need to. Scream with them if thats what they want to do. More so, If you want to give advice, ask permission. Only Advice but don’t push. Give options but don’t insist, instead give reasons for your decision.
There you go! It’s never my prayer for you or people around you to go through pain or struggles, but this is life. And it happens. When it does, here’s how to be the best friend/family you can be.
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