Life – both military and civilian – is full of gotchas. You’re just walking along, minding your own business, when down from the sky falls something horrible. Maybe it’s military related (Military loss? Surprise PCS? Training fiasco? Military child problems?). Maybe it’s a normal civilian thing made so much more difficult because of military life (Death in the family? Sick parents? Unfaithful or abusive spouse?).
No matter what the issue, difficult and painful situations can feel very isolating to the person going through them. When you are the one shouldering the burden it feels like no one can relate.
As friends and battle buddies we do want to stand and support our hurting friends. But can be hard to know just how to do that – especially if they are dealing with something you've never personally experienced. What do you say to someone whose husband cheated on her? How can you support a friend when all you can think is “Oh my God – I hope this never happens to me!” …?
Here are some ideas for way to help a hurting friend:
4 Ways to Support a Hurting FriendFood. Like we’ve written about here and here, sometimes the emotional toll can be so overwhelming that even functioning becomes difficult. All of those little things required during the day – like cooking your family dinner – become overwhelming. Taking those things off a hurting friend’s plate can go a long way. You can take her (or him) a meal or offer to occupancy them to Chili's on your dime. Live far away? Order them take out and pay for it over the phone. Just not having to think about that stuff can be a huge relief.
Send a care package. It doesn’t matter if you’re long distance or local. Give yourself a budget of $25 to $30 and put together a care package of sweet surprises and thoughtful gifts. You can do something on a theme (Examples: spa basket with bath salts and body scrub; movie night supplies complete with cheesy chick flick; wine night with chocolates, glasses and, if you're hand delivering it, some wine) or you can simply collect an assortment of things you think she will like. Mail it via USPS or ding-dong-ditch it on her front door. Want to be anonymous? Make this a stealth project and feign ignorance would she asks if you know anything.
Babysit. When a friend suddenly found her marriage on the rocks, she and her husband started attending multiple support groups, couples and individual therapy sessions. The most helpful thing her friends did for her, she said, was offer to babysit. Without them the therapy that helped get their marriage back on track and save her family would not have been possible. Babysitting can seem like such a little (and sometimes really annoying) thing – but it can have a big impact because it takes the burden of finding, booking and paying a sitter off their shoulders.
Be available to listen or just hang out. Even if you don't know the best way to help your friend or the right words to say, just listen. Let her talk about what's going on. Nod and empathize. If she doesn't want to talk, instead just be there for her. If she likes company, offer to come over to just watch TV and hang out or accompany her on a comfort food or Target therapy trip. In the midst of a difficult season, sometimes just having other people to join you in something you've found comfort in can help.
We all have hurting friends. What is your favorite way to help them?