It may seem difficult to know what to say or do for friends who are hurting. Perhaps they experienced a loss, are managing a difficult health condition or find themselves separated from family. No matter what the hurt, being a supportive friend is easier than you might imagine.
#1 Think friending over fixing. What they are facing and how they are coping is their unique journey. Honor it. Not every situation calls for an emotional bandaid or a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Take a deep breath and take the pressure off yourself to "make it all better." If you can accomplish this first step, you are already a step ahead.
#2 Ask before you act. The easiest place to begin is to ask what they need. Be genuine, be patient and be open, keeping in mind that hurt people often feel foggy, overwhelmed or uncertain. So, don't be surprised if they don't know exactly what they need. That's ok, asking shows you care and that you remain ready to help in any way.
#3 Choose simple gestures. Over my years of grief facilitation, I have heard all the verses, uplifting cards and "you'll bounce back" slogans. Hallmark is nice but is no substitute for a warm meal arriving at your doorstep, quiet hugs during tough times, heartfelt texts, offering childcare or simply listening. The key is to show up through little acts of kindness.
#4 Be understanding. Whether it's a holiday gathering or a yoga class you attend together, not every day will be easy or "on track" for your friend. Be flexible about changes, continue offering up invitations to connect, and understand that everyone needs a certain amount of time and space. Of course, be sure to check in gently to show that you want their company, are interested in their well-being and remain supportive.
No matter what approach you take, do it with a kind heart. Believe me, it's the extra long hugs and thoughtful gestures that matter most. Show up, hold space and be you.
If you are in need of supportive tips yourself, please read Sara's article Hope for the Holidays on her blog, The World Needs Hope.
Sara Simmons is an author, mentor and grief facilitator dedicated to awakening the world to the inspiring presence and healing power of hope. Learn more at theworldneedshope.com.