How To Support A Friend Through Hard Times
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I'm not a psychologist or a grief counselor, but I am a good friend. And as someone who you can typically count on to pull a little extra weight, I'm now learning about what life is like on the other side: which is being able to receive help when I need it.
It's not easy for me to ask for aid, and it's certainly not easy for me to accept it. But as my mothers second battle with cancer rages on, I find myself terrified, grief stricken, and completely overwhelmed as I continue to work hard and get through long days. As I go through one of the worst periods of my life, I'm beyond honored and so deeply touched while many friends surprise me with generosity, and heartbroken by those who have turned their back on me. There's no greater test to a relationship than when you're truly in need of help.
Strangers who I've never met in person have let me stay in their house, friends from college who I haven't spoken to in 8 years have reached out to me and even donated to my mother's fund, and my boyfriend and close friends have been there with me the whole way, supporting, listening, and even crying with me as this goes on.
When rough times come up, often times, we're not sure how to act. Life is filled with confusing, overwhelming, unfair, and impossible to help scenarios that seem to keep getting more and more intense as we get older.
Here are some ideas to help a friend, or loved one who is really going through it:
1. Let Them Know You're There. Call and send messages that require no response but establish that you're checking in regularly. Having friends listen to me cry and distract me with their own lives has been one of the best coping mechanisms. This is the number one, simplest and easiest thing that you can do with the most impact, and it requires very little time or energy, as of course, most of us are always busy with our own lives and our own troubles.
2. Share But Don't Compare: Give your friend ideas on how to cope. Tell them about a rough time that you got through, and how there was light on the other side. Tell them inspiring stories of friends who have done the same. Don't compare your struggle, or anyone else's, to what they're going through currently. Of course there are varying degrees of "bad," but when someone is having a really rough time, no matter what it is, it seems like the worst possible thing that could happen.
Viktor Frankl has the best quote on this that I've ever heard: “To draw an analogy: a man's suffering is similar to the behavior of a gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative.”
3. Recommend Or Provide Distractions: Little decisions, like what to make for dinner and how to distract yourself/fill free time can be extremely overwhelming when life is like this. I couldn't be more grateful for funny movie ideas, great podcast recommendations, or even just the offer to cook with me, personally. My latest coping mechanism has been to have a glass of wine in the bath, watching stand-up comedy, or listening to something humorous. Humor is one of the biggest comforts in the world. The idea that you can get through something, understand it, and then heal enough to make fun of it is a beautiful thing.
4. Give: If you want to help a loved one, gift them. This doesn't have to be a monetary donation, though that is always one of the best things you can do when someone is need. Donate a few dollars to a Gofundme. Offer to spend time together. Get your friend a massage, a meal, or even send them gift certificate to their favorite takeout place so they can stay home and rest. Anything you can do to help bear the burden (especially in the form of small, daily tasks) is so unbelievably appreciated. I don't think I can count how many times I've cried out of gratitude from gifts this year, big and small. From donations to my Mom's fund, to offers to let us stay in the house of a friend, or even just a 15 minute phone conversation first thing in the morning. It all matters. And it's all very, very needed and appreciated.
To my readers and followers who have helped me, and continue to help me through this time: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you. <3