Note from the Herbal Authoress: I asked Meagan to write a piece on how to be there when a friend is going through a tough time, because I have repeatedly seen her step up and provide emotional support, run errands, grab coffee, and even make snacks for her long-time friends in the office who have been dealing with the illness and loss of their parents. I am constantly impressed by her generosity and kindness, and I thought that she could lend some wonderful insight into how to be a good friend. These are her ideas:
Listen: Most people will need to vent, let them talk. No need to pry but let them openly vent their story. Many of us are eager to share our own feelings or thoughts on the situation at hand, but that may be taking away from their time to emotionally process their own story, so give them your full attention. I’ll never forget being depressed after my Dad passed away, only to have a “friend” compare how awful their life was compared to mine. Don’t offer advice or make comparisons unless asked.
Validation: Focus on what they’re feeling, don’t invalidate what they may be feeling by dismissing or making light of the situation. Get on their level emotionally, empathize with them.
Service: A lot of the time those going through difficult situations will turn down help, not wanting to burden those who have their own life to live. When asking “Is there anything I can do for you?” change it to be more specific “I’d like to help you by doing ____.” Doing something without them having to ask can often relieve some stress of daily life. Providing a meal, basic groceries, taking the kids for a few hours, and helping with the house are good ways to help out. Normal day-to-day tasks can seem overwhelming when in a difficult situation.
Be patient: There is no standard time for grieving or a standard emotional timeline. Give them the time they need. If you are truly concerned with how long the sadness has lasted recommend they see a doctor or therapist.