4 Essential Ways To Support A Friend Going Through A Hard Time

As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours. The last few weeks have been pretty hard for me. An immediate family member is in the hospital; while they aren’t in mortal danger, the situation is messy and as their power of attorney, I’m having to juggle my emotional stress with a legal responsibility that feels uncomfortable but is nonetheless necessary. Additionally, there have been other, uh, unpleasant developments in my personal life that have left my heart feeling incredibly bruised and disappointed. Yet the last few weeks have been made much more manageable thanks to my amazing family, friends, and coworkers, who have shown their support in just the right ways. After the jump, a 4-step plan for supporting a friend or family member who’s going through a crappy time. If you have any additional steps you want to add, share them in the comments!Step 1: Keep your worry to yourself. If you know someone is going through a hard time, it’s only natural to feel worried about them. But for the person who’s having a hard time, knowing someone is “worrying” about them is an additional burden. I adore my mom and I am happy that I can talk to her about anything and everything, but sometimes I find myself toning down my sadness or fear because it causes her to really worry and that causes me to be distracted by her worry, which isn’t helpful. So, if you’re the friend or loved one of someone having a hard time, keep your worry about them or the situation to yourself, and focus your energy on being strong and supportive instead.

Step 2: Make it clear that you’re there to help, then give them space. Everyone deals with grief, stress, and heartbreak in their own way; some people like to be surrounded by loved ones during hard times, while others like to keep to themselves. Offer your support in a firm, loving, and clear manner — “I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time. I am hear for you in any way you need me to be, all you have to do is ask” — and then give them breathing room. There’s no need to reiterate it over and over again. Even if they never take you up on it — or seek the support of someone else — knowing they have your support available to them is what matters most.

Step 3: Don’t downplay your own happiness. Sure, don’t rub your good fortune in the face of someone going through a rough time — “Sucks you and your boyfriend broke up, but that reminds me, did I tell you that my boyfriend is taking me to Paris for three weeks?” — but downplaying positive news doesn’t actually help, it sounds ungrateful. The intentions may be totally pure, but it’s annoying when someone tries to relate by joining the pity party with their similar, but lesser (or non-existent), problems. For example, if we just got dumped, it doesn’t make us feel better if you pretend your boyfriend is not so great when we know he is and, really, we’d like to know there’s awesome dudes out there because it gives us hope.

Step 4: Show them that they’re in your thoughts in other ways. A friend of mine, knowing I’ve been having a hard couple of weeks, texted me yesterday simply to tell me that I’m awesome. Another friend, knowing I’ve been wanting to distract myself by getting out of the house, has been inviting me to events that she thinks I’ll enjoy. Ami always sends me pornographic GIFs or ridiculous photos because she knows they make me laugh no matter what. Small actions like these are uplifting reminders that a person is loved and on someone’s mind; when you’re going through a tough time, that can often be just the motivation needed to keep on keepin’ on.

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