How to be a friend to someone who is hurting
As someone who is currently going through a somewhat challenging time, I got to thinking about the ways my friends have helped and hurt me throughout this process. When we are hurting, we need other people to surround us and support us…or we can run the danger of falling away from our true selves for good.
Being a good friend to someone when they are hurting, grieving, or even going through a difficult season can be tough. The ones who have been there for me the best are the ones who were there and simply listened when I needed to vent, and offered encouragement when I need some. I wanted to share some of the things that have tremendously helped me and my family with you all so you can pay it forward to those who are hurting in your own life and community.
Be present in their lives.
This is so very important. When you’re hurting, you NEED the support of other people, but often you’re unable to ask for help. Don’t wait for your friends to reach out to you. Call them. Check in on them. If you notice them not showing up to church, missing out on work, or other activities, trust your instincts. Reach out and give them a hug when you see them. Go out of your way to talk with them when you’re in a group. The people who have made the most impact on me recently have been those who have stepped out of their comfort zone and spent time with me. And I never asked ANYONE to do that. But I felt tremendously loved and seen because of their actions.
Listen to them.
It can be very tempting to offer lots of advice, prayers, scriptures, quotes, etc. to your friends who are grieving, hurting, or suffering. Please do not lead with this. It can often be taken as disingenuous, even if you do not mean it to do so. Rather, ask them questions and listen to them speak. Sometimes a simple, “I don’t know what to do, but I am here” can be so
Don’t rush them through the healing process.
One of the most frustrating things to manage is the temptation to want to rush your friends through the healing process. This is because sitting with someone who is hurting can be very awkward or even uncomfortable. It is often weighty and not always an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. I can tell you that when I am sharing with a friend what I am going through, the most important thing I need is for someone to listen, to NOT try to fix it or wish it away, but rather to say something like, “how can I help?” or “help me understand” if they still don’t get it.
Communicate + Check In Often
Often people will retreat when they are hurting. Isolating oneself is a very common step hurting people take, but it is often incredibly harmful and can be disastrous if hurting people are left alone all the time. Continuing communication as a friend is so vital. Even if they do not reciprocate right away or seem stand-off-ish, please don’t give on on reaching out to them. Send that text or message online. Give them a call. Send them something or simply show up at their home with coffee.
Don’t offer the often hurtful “words of advice.”
Please resist the urge to offer (often cliche) words of advice. Trust me, you’re gonna want to do this. (Mostly because you will want to fill spaces of silence with noise, because silence can feel super awkward.) But filling the space in a conversation with someone who is hurting is not always what is needed. Your proximity and presence is everything and can mean more than you will ever know. You can simply say, “I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say, but I am here. How can I help?”
So many of us mean well. But knowing better means we can do better in helping our hurting friends and family. May you be a light in the darkness to those in your immediate circles and communities.