One of the realities of life is that bad things happen. With any luck, we can avoid these scenarios as much as possible. However, someone in your life will certainly experience unfortunate events, and it’s in these difficult times where we can shine the most as friends.
Everyone knows someone that has gone through divorce. It’s especially difficult when you are friends with both spouses. It’s okay to lend an ear, but be careful not to bad mouth in solidarity with one of them. You can be supportive of one person’s struggle with the relationship breakup without making an enemy of the other. In fact, focusing on bringing positivity and strength in a difficult time is better for your friend anyway.
If they have kids at your school, can you help with carpool while they adjust to life as a single parent? Do you have a good contact for a family law attorney that can help them navigate the dissolution? Can you watch their kids while they attend hearings? Even just bringing take out and wine to replace their monthly spousal date night can be more meaningful than you know.
Job losses are typically unexpected, and no matter how well we prepare for the unexpected, the stress can be huge. Worrying about paying the mortgage, keeping kids in their private schools, and finding another job is already more than someone wants to deal with. If the job loss is for a longer period than expected, then families are typically cutting out non-essential costs. Give your friend and his or her spouse a break by offering up some free babysitting. Bring over takeout for the whole family. Treat your friend to a manicure.
If you have the skills, review resumes and cover letters. If you’re comfortable, help set up meetings with people in your friend’s industry. This last one is a sensitive issue. There are many ways to help without putting your professional reputation on the line if you don’t feel it’s right, so don’t offer unless you are sure.
Death Of a Loved One
People grieve in different ways, and it’s hard to find the words to support a friend who has lost someone close to them. Remember that it’s just important that you’re there, and don’t ask them what you can do for them–tell them what you will do for them. Maybe that’s setting up a meal train with friends and neighbors to ensure they’re fed. Or assisting with funeral plans. Maybe it’s taking over their part of carpool for a few months.
Whatever it is, don’t wait for them to come to you. Ask them permission but give them a tangible thing to agree to and use the presumptive close. “I’d like to set up a meal train, so if it’s okay with you, I’ll call your mom and coordinate.” Perhaps most importantly, don’t let up after a couple of weeks. There will be an initial outpouring of love and support, but long before the grieving process is over, the help dissipates. Be the person who keeps checking in every other week. Even if they don’t need as much substantive help or support, knowing people haven’t forgotten about them is immeasurable.
A Final Thought
One important thing to consider is that we won’t always have the “right” thing to say when someone we care about is going through something difficult. And a good response for one person in one moment might not fit with another person or a different day. And that’s okay. The most important thing isn’t to fill the space with empty words or to try to find resolutions. The key is to just be there. And sometimes a simple, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this and I’m here for you” is enough.