Episode 65: Girlfriend's Guide To Friendship: How To Step Up In Times Of Need
Bill Withers said it best when he urged us to 'lean on me, when you're not strong, and I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on.' Though not a girlfriend, we can relate to his sentiment of being a good friend in times of need. This week we're diving into all the ways you can help a sister out in the hard times by sharing the most helpful ways people have shown up in our own lives and the way we try to do so ourselves.
- Lament with your friends. Not to bring them down even further, but to acknowledge that they’re going through something hard and it sucks. Sometimes an "I'm sorry, that's so hard I can't even imagine" goes a lot farther than any piece of advice ever could.
- Take a step back at the onset. Right after a tragedy or a big life event, people often don't know exactly what it is they need and asking "how can I help?" can bring on decision fatigue. A simple "I'm here for you when you're ready" and then following up a little later will suffice. That way, you can let your friend know that you're there for her, but not put her in a position to play "crisis hostess" and come up with the best way for you to meet a need when all she really needs to focus on is putting one foot in front of the other.
- Offer sound advice and point them to truth. Not in a cheesy “everything happens for a reason” way, but in an “I’m your friend and you may not be seeing this so I’m going to point it out to you” way.
- Remember the secondary crisis. In the aftermath of a tragedy there is so much to do to keep a person busy. Whether it's planning a funeral and all the associated logistics or figuring out a living situation after a fire, the true processing of grief may not set in until days, weeks, or months afterwards. That's when your friendship matters. People come out of the woodworks at the beginning, which is great, but as stable presence in your friend's life, be the person who shows up when the crowds fade and the to-do list is over because that's when she's going to need you the most.
- Be a happy distraction. Whether it's calling your BFF after she has a baby to talk about life outside of new motherhood or organizing a group outing after friend's dad died or sending your sister GIFs every day after her break up, sometimes distractions can be a good thing. Talking about your feelings has a time and a place, but sometimes laughter and acknowledging life outside of your current situation can be the best medicine.
- Think about the daily processes that might become more difficult. That could be daily transportation after a car wreck or cooking dinner after a fire destroys your kitchen utensils or even Friday nights after a break up. This is a great way to step up without being asked and fill a need. Offer to drive your friend to the rental car place. Go to the dollar store and stock up on kitchen utensils. Invite your friend to sushi when you know she might be missing date night.
- Just be there. Even if you can't be there in person, making a phone call or sending a text reminding your friend that you're available to lend a listening ear can be so reassuring.
- Similarly, respond to the text. If your friend reaches out to you and needs to vent, let her air her feelings and hash it out with you. You can't always do anything to change the situation, but being available can shed the weight of isolation and loneliness can make a world of difference.
- Find a need and meet it. You don't have to channel your inner Robin Scherbatsky and be the girl who carries everything your friend could possibly need in her purse, but you can find one or two needs and make them your mission. Maybe your the girl who always sets up meal trains or always offers childcare or always carries a snack in her purse (which is just good sense, anyway). Find a way to help and then do that thing.
- In the same vain, listen for the tangible need. If you hear your friend mention they need help transporting flowers after a funeral and you have an empty trunk, volunteer your car. If you hear she doesn't have a bed, offer an air mattress. If you know she's going to need someone to pick up her kids from school after her surgery, be on carpool duty. It may not be glamorous, but being in the trenches is where it really counts.