Do you know someone who has recently received very bad news? Or, do you have a friend who seems down? Even if you don’t know what to say, there might be something you can do. Here are 7 suggestions from the frontlines:
1. Take them a gift.
Just a couple of months into Claire’s cancer treatment, I was feeling pretty detached from my friends. One particularly difficult day the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a very good friend standing there. She was holding a pan of Rice Krispie treats. She handed me the treats and said, “We were already making them, and we thought of you so we just dumped in some more marshmallows.” She made it sound like a small thing, but it was a very big thing to me.
2. Write them a note.
Throughout the first six months of Claire’s very intense treatment, I was not always myself. This made it difficult to be gracious when talking with people face-to-face at times. Notes of love and encouragement were my saving grace. I absolutely clung to those words - an email, a blog comment, a handwritten note slipped to me in church, or even a card in my mailbox. You would be surprised how many times I re-read the notes from loved ones.
3. Ask them if they want to talk, but don’t expect them to.
I am, by nature, a very chatty person, so it surprised me how exhausting it was for me to talk about me or even Claire. The offer to talk was appreciated, but so was the acceptance if I said no.
4. Talk to them like you normally would.
If you normally tell your friend all about your child’s sleeping problems, continue to do so. It is a nice reprieve from one’s own difficulties to hear about someone else’s daily challenges however menial.
5. Pray for them specifically.
At a women’s conference I heard a speaker say, “If you pray general prayers, you’ll get general answers. If you want specific answers, pray for specific things.” Pray for healing for your friend, for comfort, for answers, for strength to do hard things, and for a bit of happiness in their day.
6. Tell them you are praying for them.
I felt the strength of other’s prayers in behalf of our family. It was still nice to know who was doing that praying. It often brought me to tears to know someone had remembered my family during their prayers, especially the children who prayed for Claire without fail. There is power in joining together in unified prayer.
7. Be in it for the long haul.
The fall-out from a trial is much more than we can possibly know. The grief might last much longer for the afflicted person then we might expect. I remember someone giving a talk in church the week after Claire’s diagnosis. She mentioned our family and said, “The Bluhm family is in it for the long haul.” She then encouraged the ward to also be ‘in it’ with us. And, oh, how they were! They brought us dinners every week for the first 6 months. Several girls, one in particular, babysat Avery during Claire’s weekly doctor’s visits with no expectation of pay. One wonderful woman wrote a comment on the blog almost every single time I made an entry. Then at church, she always made eye contact and smiled. I learned to expect it and look for it. These good people did this for two and a half years. Be ‘in it’ with your friend.
Did I miss anything? What else do you find helpful when you are struggling? I’d love if you added to the list. Let’s start a discussion and learn from each other.