How to support a friend going through a difficult time

How to support a friend going through a difficult time

Life is full of ups and downs, and during tough times, having a good support system can make all the difference. But let’s be honest, figuring out what the right kind of support looks like can be tricky. You want to be there for them but may not know the best way to do so. In this blog, we will explore some practical ways to support a friend during difficult times. Whether your friend is dealing with a breakup, a loss, or a significant life change, these tips will help you be the supportive and caring friend they need.

Hold space for them.

This is an important starting point. To support a friend, you only need to be there for them. It’s understandable if you don’t know what to do or say, no one can hold that against you. But what you can do is be there and let them know you’re available. They may not know what they need, but your steadying presence alone will provide a lot of comfort when the rest of their life might be in turmoil. 

Show up

Instead of “I’m here for you if you need anything, just let me know”, try to understand what they’re going through and how you can provide practical help. Bring home-cooked food, wash the dishes or offer to rearrange their appointments. Your friend may be unable to think straight to tell what they need, and this kind of practical help can be immensely helpful.

When they talk, validate their feelings

Whatever your friend says about how they feel is real to them. If they say they feel heartbroken, validate it. Simply repeating what they say, “I hear that you feel heartbroken”, will be helpful. To process our feelings, we must be allowed to feel them. Unless they specifically ask for it, this is not a good time to offer advice or relate to your own experience. This kind of advice comes from a good place, but it takes the attention away from where it needs to be – your friend’s actual experience.

Be authentic

When you don’t know what to do, or say, simply say that. Let them know that even though you don’t have answers, you’re willing to sit through the discomfort with them. You can say, “I can’t imagine how you feel, but I’m here for you.”

Check-in consistently

This is not the time to expect your friend to reach out, they may not have the energy or even realise they need support. Instead, you can phone, text or even visit – it doesn’t need to be complicated but to provide comfort, it needs to be consistent. This way, you can also keep tabs on their mental health; your friend may need professional help to process their feelings. It’s not on you to carry this burden, you can let their partner or family know if you’re worried.

Do the heavy lifting

Expect to have to reach out first for some time and stay proactive in showing up for your friend. If you come across specific books or podcasts that deal with the loss they’ve experienced, offer to send it their way. If there’s a talk by someone who’s been through the same thing, offer to go with them.