For some of us, we can easily call our best friends and say what we need at the moment from them.
For others, our words have a hard time turning into tangible sentences, and maybe the pain is heavier than the need to ask for help.
While people navigate the murky waters of life at their own pace, it’s hard being on the other side of that as a close friend. You genuinely want to help, comfort, or offer to do something to alleviate that pain for them. You see your best friend breaking into a million different pieces and holding it all together all the time.
What comes easy for some, can mean moving mountains for others. Regardless, it’s tough on both ends.
I’ve been on both ends. I’ve been the friend who watched my friends go through some tough life situations and silently break down without being able to reach for help. I’ve also been the friend going through those situations without being able to reach out.
It’s ironic because I’m a school psychologist student currently working at multiple school sites. Part of my job specifically is teaching students to know what anxiety, depression, or stress looks like, and how to reach out when they need help.
Well, life isn’t always so simple when it comes to our stressors, right? Explains how some people could be doctors and still be extremely unhealthy.
In the past, I was going through some personal family issues that caused me to fall into some kind of depression. A depression I was able to work through because I have the tools to do so, but I noticed that reaching out, was incredibly tough for me.
I spent some time asking myself: why? The answer I came up with is that I hate feeling like an inconvenience for people. I’m a pretty independent person and it’s a weird feeling to feel like I’m disrupting someone’s schedule. That was a feeling I personally was able to work through, but it took time to get there and ask for what I needed.
Here are some things you can do to be there for a friend who doesn’t know how to ask for help yet:
1. Just show up, respectfully.
If you know your friend well, you know their patterns for dealing with life situations.
When they go through hard things, do they need space or want more connection? Look at past situations and how it was handled. Regardless, still show up. It’s absolutely okay to give your friend space if they need it, though.
Gauge their response and follow that but let them know you are there. This could be done by just checking in on them, sending a funny meme, or a song that makes them smile. Don’t overcomplicate it. Just show up.
2. Do the damn thing.
Most of the time, when you offer to grab someone coffee or order them in food because they aren’t feeling well, they will say “no.” My feelings of feeling like an inconvenience, aren’t just exclusive to me. I find a lot of people share this feeling. If you are able to postmate someone their favorite meal or venmo for a cup of coffee, just do it. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive to be thoughtful.
3. Don’t offer advice, unless specifically asked.
Oh man, this one I personally failed at in the past. I know if my best friend is reading this, she’s laughing to herself. If you are anything like me and a notorious problem-solver, you like to offer up solutions like it’s your job. I’m pretty sure that’s one of my love languages.
Your version of the solution to their problems is just that – your version. Also, if your friends aren’t explicitly asking for solutions, don’t offer them up. Sometimes it’s our instinct to instruct people on what to do best, hold that in. Just let them vent and share with you.
4. Hold space for them.
This leads me to holding space. A lot of us have probably never heard of this one. How do you hold space for someone? You do it by not offering your advice, opinion, or judgments. You let your friend say and feel whatever they need to feel. This is a common practice in therapy sessions where the therapist will hold space for the client. It allows your friend to feel safe to vent and share.
5. Don’t try to relate if you genuinely can’t.
I remember when I was going through my family situation, one of the greatest things my close group of friends did was this. They told me they will be there for me, but they have absolutely no clue what I’m going through. That was so refreshing to hear. It’s ok to not know. It’s worse to pretend to relate when you know you can’t. Just be honest and acknowledge that it’s territory you know nothing about. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.
It means you are showing up authentically. It means you honor their experience.
Any tips that have helped you or friends going through hard times? Share them below.