Whether it is a death, wedding, baby, divorce, or job loss, at some point people experience life altering events that require a lot of adjusting. At the beginning of the summer I lost my high school classmate who died in Italy on holiday under similar circumstances to my cousin. The pain was gut wrenching as life literally paused for a moment. But this isn’t only a hard time for me; lots of my best friends are dealing with difficult situations like injured loved ones, toxic relationships, job losses and cancer scares. I’ve had to be strong for them just as they were for me, so today I’m sharing five ways you can be supportive for a friend or loved one during any life changing event.
1. Encourage Self Care
The mind & body connection should never be overlooked. Doing something you love. For me right now, self care involves exercise, so I’m often dragging my best friend Telia to my workouts (some days she actually works out without me if I can’t make it). This started as a last ditch effort to get our summer bodies, but became something therapeutic when times got rough. So whatever self care looks like for you, whether it’s a day at the beach, in the gym or a night out on the town, do something with your friend, and encourage them to do something that fuels them.
This one is pretty obvious, but a lot of people are so quick to silver line everything, they don’t allow friends to cry. Sometimes a person just needs to cry; and if they trust you enough to cry in front of you, let them cry. It hurts more to keep it in because they’re probably trying to be strong. And if their tears make you cry, that’s okay too. Some people can’t handle being around other people as they cry because it makes them cry. That just means you’re an empathetic person and it provides validation to your friend who is crying that whatever they’re dealing with, truly is sad.
3. Every meal is important
I’m not saying eat your feelings, but at the same time, grieving on an empty stomach is no fun. So make sure your friend or loved one is eating. And if the friend is dealing with financial issues, make a meal for them or take them out somewhere. It’s a simple gesture that shows you care and allows them to be stress-free for at least one meal. But also learn to recognise when enough is enough. After my cousin died, my aunt had more food than she was possibly able to eat. While it was considerate of people to bring her food, maybe you should check with your friend or loved one and ask them if they need food first.
4. Do something for the kids
If there are kids, trust me they need love too. Kids can sense when something is wrong and it affects them too. So doing something for the kids not only makes the kids happy but your friend will appreciate you even more for thinking about their family. Whether it’s going out for ice cream or indulging in their vain teenage fantasies, simply talking to and listening to the kid provides an outlet for them to say how everything is affecting them.
5. Refer to a specialist
A friend of mine asked me if I could counsel his blended family or if I knew someone who could. Because of our friendship, therapy would’ve been a conflict of interest and I did not need to know about any issues he and his wife were having. So I immediately sent him the number of an intern therapist I’ve been helping. It was such a simple act, but everyone was grateful. If your friend or loved one is open to therapy, getting them in contact with a good therapist is a very loving action. You’re not going to have all the answers, so don’t try to pretend that you do. Referring to a therapist, or a specialist for a medical illness shows you care and want to see them get better. Just be cautious how you bring up the therapy recommendation (you don’t want to offend them).