“Let me know if you need anything…” is often heard before, during, and/or after a difficult time. While this phrase may be well-intentioned, it may be helpful to put it into action rather than saying it aloud. When a person is in a stressful situation, they may not know what they need and they may not be in any place to ask for help. Here are some ways you can help out without overloading your friend:
- Instead of asking, “Can I bring you dinner?,” say, “I’m bringing you a meal. What night works best for you? ” This alleviates any worries your friend may have about saying “yes” to a meal. Make sure you ask about any allergies or dislikes. Making it a complete meal, with added salad dressings, dessert, and so on, will make it feel special for your friend. Some ideas are slow-cooker roast beef, mashed potatoes, a veggie, bread, and dessert or a pasta bake, salad, dessert. Always make a bit extra so they can have leftovers the next day for lunch or dinner. If cooking isn’t your thing or the friend has a lot of allergies in her household, a gift card is a wonderful touch as well. This way, she and her household can order food or go out when they want to. I have found gift cards more convenient than flowers. Flowers are beautiful to look at but you never know if someone in the house is allergic or has animals that may get into them. The last thing your friend needs during a stressful time is a cat or dog throwing up.
- When you are headed to the store, pick up toilet paper, tissues, and/or paper towels for your friend. During a difficult time, it often goes unnoticed when these things are down to the last of them. They might need prescriptions picked up as well. It may seem silly but I promise your friend will be grateful. Also, if you’re headed to the store, you can let your friend know and see if he/she needs you to pick up anything.
- If your friend has children, offer to take the kids for awhile. This allows your friend to focus on themselves, their situation, and, hopefully, promotes self-care. Chances are the kids are stressed as well. Do something fun with them, like go to a trampoline park, play laser tag, go to a park, or see a movie. Whatever it is that you do, your friend will appreciate the time alone.
- Clean your friend’s house, do their dishes, mow their lawn, or pull their weeds. Or you could hire someone to do one of these things. I recently had surgery and this was one of the most helpful things someone did for me. She came to our house and vacuumed, brought two meals, and played with the kids. These acts of friendship not only improved my mood but lifted my family’s spirits as well.
- If your friend is able, come and pick her up and take her to a coffee shop or out for breakfast. Getting her out of the house will help improve her outlook and spending time with a friend will bring a smile to her face. Take her to her favorite place. If she can’t get out of the house, bring coffee/tea, lunch or breakfast, to her.
- Lastly, be a friend. Listen. Sometimes that is all one needs to do. Sit in the quiet, hold her hand, cry with her, and let her just be. Don’t offer advice or anecdotes. Just offer your time, love, and friendship. The friend that cleaned my house after surgery also called me after I texted her about how depressed I was. She let me sob on the phone and didn’t try to get me to be or feel anything different. I am forever grateful to her. That phone call helped immensely. In fact, that is when she decided she was driving up to help me. She didn’t ask if it was okay, she just asked what day worked best. Be that friend.