How to be there for a Friend who’s Hurting

Kunbi O / Friday August 25, 2017

Today we’re talking about a tough topic: How to be there for a friend who is hurting. It’s awful to see our loved ones in pain and going through hardships. You want to do everything you can, say the right things, be there and make it all better. Ultimately though, everyone deals with pain and grief differently and it can be very hard to know how to act, what to say and how to be the most help. While there’s no guidebook, here are some very honest and insightful thoughts and pieces of advice to help you navigate difficult times:

There’s no ‘right thing to say’… but there are lots of wrong ones: The year after I finished university was incredible in many ways, but it was also the year I lost several friends, including a man I adored. In my grief, I learned that when people try to say something helpful, it comes out as a platitude or worse. It’s uncomfortable to leave things on a sad note, so they use phrases like “meant to be” or “everything will be okay”. But some things are not okay. And some never will be. Understand that there’s no magic combination of words that will change that. You cannot fix it, but you CAN acknowledge it. Say: “this sucks, and I’m so sorry”, without a but at the end of the sentence. And if you must say something else, just make it something true. Tell them what they mean to you, tell them that you’re there. And then shut up, listen, and let them be sad for as long as they need to be. – Gaby Frescura, Editor, Southbound Bride.

Know that if your friend has gone through something tragic like the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship, the grief or pain will be around for quite a while. Don’t just assume that she is or will be fine after a short period of time. Make an effort to reach out and check in with her regularly and show that you care ALL the time, not just in the immediate aftermath. – Jessica Bishop, The Budget Savvy Bride.

Distract Them: When my husband had just undergone life threatening emergency surgery, I was a complete wreck. Like, go-to-the-grocery-store-daily-just-so-I-wouldn’t-cry-in-front-of-him kind of wreck. After a few weeks at home helping him heal, I really needed to get out of the house. And when I saw friends or family, the LAST thing I wanted to talk about was his surgery or the difficulties we were having. My emotions were raw and I just wanted to be distracted with celeb gossip or shopping or anything that required zero brain power. It was like giving my brain and heart a break, and really helped me through that time. – Brianna Kozlarek, Aisle Perfect

Show Compassion and Understanding: When your loved ones are dealing with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, exercise grace and understanding even when it doesn’t make sense or seems hurtful to you with their distance or emotional absence. Remember it’s not you. They’re battling daily exhausting wars inside of their brains caused by chemical imbalances, and sometimes waking up is all they can physically and mentally do that day. Send your loved one a funny meme to let them know you’re thinking of them or just be there to quietly hold their hand if they need it. Your compassion never goes unnoticed during their darker moments. Chelsea LaVere, Editor-in-Chief, Tidewater and Tulle.

Sometimes all we have to do is listen: We don’t enjoy seeing people we love hurting, our default setting is to often try to lighten a situation or deflect so it is less painful or uncomfortable. We often try to intervene by attempting to alleviate pain or to lesson the burden by trying to “fix’ the problem. Perhaps by taking control of the conversation, or encouraging our friends to ‘think positively’ or do something which will make them feel better. Sadness, pain, anger, anguish etc,  are all human conditions and sometimes we need to accept and experience them first, before we can truly move forward.  So if a friend is hurting, rather than try to ‘change’ a friends mood, sometimes all we have to do is be there, listen and validate their experience. Allow them to feel what they need to and when they are ready to move forward, support them in transitioning through it. Sometimes simply just being there IS enough.Nova Reid, Editor Nu Bride and Wellness coach

Be respectful of their needs and boundaries: People grieve in different ways and you have to keep that in mind when responding to their hurt. It is always encouraging to know that you are thinking of them, however, if your friend is the type who requires space, please give them that and allow them to grieve the best way they know how.

Try to understand things from their perspective: When we talk to others, we often only consider our situation and life experiences, which oftentimes are not the same as theirs. We all have a unique set of circumstances that have led us to where we are today. Consider what is best for her in the given situation, which may not always be what you would choose for yourself. So… hear her, put yourself in her shoes, and listen. – Jennifer Prince, Hill City Bride.

Physically be there: When I’ve been hurting I know it was so hard for people to actually find what to say or do but the most important and actually simplest thing was to just be there and not just a phone call but to physically be there. I literally just needed a shoulder to cry on and someone to sit with me and listen, allow me to vent, cry and then make me laugh.- Shafonne Myers, Pretty Pear Bride.

When in doubt, send the ice cream:  Sometimes when friends are grieving they just need to be alone. But it still feels good to know that people are thinking about you. So send all the comfort foods (and wines) with a nice note and let them know they aren’t going through this alone and that you are there for them when they’re ready. It really is the little things that make all the difference.