6 Things You Need to Know About Supporting a Friend During a Tough Time

6 Things

Two years ago in November I was elated to be hanging out with my dear friend Miranda’s children, eagerly awaiting the news that the twins Miranda was expecting had been born.  I was honored to be among the first people to hear the announcement that Henry and Seamus had been welcomed into the world.

About two hours later, I was at home making dinner when I got a text from Miranda. “Get on your face and pray” was all it said.

When more information was revealed, I found out that one of the twins, Henry, has a serious heart defect as well as other complications that accompany it.

And so my journey in the third circle of supporting the Brown family began.

Person Afflicted

Here’s what I’ve learned about  supporting a friend during a tough time.

Not every need is glamorous.

In fact I would go so far as to say that most of the needs you will fill will not be glamorous.  Feeding someones pets comes with no prestige what so ever. Visiting in a hospital room  with beeping monitors and nurses coming in and out, not exactly an alluring scene.  Who gives a crap!  Do it anyway!

Find what is ACTUALLY helpful.

Making a meal for my friend is not helpful right now.  That’s not to say it won’t ever be helpful, but in this season it’s not the best use of my time and resources.  Sitting in a coffee shop listening is one of the best ways for me to love on my friend.  Ask how you can help in ways that are really useful to the person you are supporting.

Be a detective.

People want to maintain their dignity, so if you straight out ask “What do you need?”  they will probably say “Nothing.”

Keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground.  Sometimes it’s as simple as an encouraging word or just “I’m here.”

Maybe it’s bigger and more complicated like they need some funds for an up coming medical trip and you get to put together a team and co-host a fundraiser.

Stick around.

Your friend has a lot on their plate and honestly she doesn’t necessarily have the time or the energy to invest in play dates and spa afternoons.  You are not her top priority.  Get over it.  She is not snubbing you or pulling away from your friendship.  She really is in the thick of life, figuring out how to navigate a new normal.  Be there when she needs you.

Do and Don't


Like really listen.  Sit and listen.  Ask questions.  The listen some more.

Keep her in the loop.

Friendships are two way.  Don’t dump your problems all over you struggling friend, but do contribute to conversations when it’s appropriate.

Probably the most important thing to remember is this… It’s not about you.

What would you add?  Leave me a comment and tell me about your experience with supporting a friend through a tough time.

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  • Brandee says:

    What a great list. I hope that everything worked out for your friends family. I think that sometimes people forget that just being there is one of the greatest things they can do for someone.

  • Cindy says:

    This is a great post. 🙂 I have been the one people have supported a couple of times due to the deaths of our children. I will be posting similar posts later on this month, tips for others from the viewpoint of the one needing support.

  • LOVE this post. I’m sharing it in a post of my own today. All of these tips – ALL OF THEM. Especially the “be a detective” tip. I come from a family where we simply do not ask for help. We just don’t. So I would love to just print you post out and hand it out to anyone who asks me “what can we do for you/your family right now”, because I never know how to answer, and your post is just the perfect loving response.

  • ashley p says:

    those are wonderful tips. My son spent 2 weeks in the NICU after he was born, and most people seemed to keep their distance until he was home and well

  • amette says:

    I, too, wholeheartedly agree with the ‘detective’ strategy. Yes, it is hard to ask for help. It is so much better to have someone show up with a meal – even if you already had supper on the go! – than to be asked if you need a meal!

    And listening, then BEING OKAY WITH THE ANSWER. For instance, friends who respect you when you say that the way they can really help is by giving you space – that is an example of true care. Especially when the time is ripe for eliminating that space, sometime in the future.

    Insightful post, Sarah!

  • Miranda says:

    I really liked the keep her in the loop, cause as crazy as ones life can get your friend going through the trail still loves you too. It’s helps keep their feet grounded and bring a sense of normal.

  • Nikki says:

    My best friend lost her 11 month old to SIDS, at my house last summer. Supporting her while dealing with my own feelings of not being able to revive him and having a death in my home and my own grief has been the most impossible thing I have ever experienced. There is no right way to grieve and no right way to help someone else grieve. You have to just do the best you can and somedays you will get it right and somedays you will get it so very wrong. But just keep trying.

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