When your friend is hurting….. 5 Practical ways to reach out

Life can be so HARD!  We all go through sfriendeasons when life is just extra challenging.  We all know someone that is HURTING right now.  Whether your friend is experiencing a medical challenge, a job loss, a family crisis, loss of a loved one or personal struggle there are lots of ways we can REACH out and show we love and care.

I have lived the life of being THE hurting friend and also have been the friend of someone hurting.  During our 4 year journey with our son’s leukemia I have had friends who have done an  EXCELENT job of reaching out …. and I have had friends that left me feeling alone.  I know that YOU WANT to be the friend that makes a positive impact during your friend’s time of struggle.  I have learned from the examples of my friends, and I know first hand how I have felt over the years.  These are tried and true ways you can practically REACH out and show you care!

5 Practical ways to reach out and show you care

  1. Encouraging Words and Listening Ear

Sometimes we just don’t know what to say to someone that is hurting.  We want to say something helpful but we are at a loss.  So instead of saying anything, we too often say nothing.  Without meaning to we end up causing our friend more pain because our silence creates isolation and separation.  Lets just be honest: There is NOTHING you can say that can *fix* or eliminate the pain and heartache your friend is going through and your friend isn’t expecting this.  Therefore, just knowing this takes the pressure off and we can focus on sharing encouraging words and being a listening ear.

Putting Encouraging Words and Listening Ear into ACTION:

*Text Messages:  Text messaging is probably the easiest way to let your friend know you are thinking about them.  Texts are quick and simple but let our friend know we care.  We can send a quick “Hello! Checking in on you!”  “How can I pray for you today?” “I have been thinking about you… want you to know I care.”  “I’m here…. want to chat?”    You can also send Bible verses, pictures with quotes, jokes, links to a song, a picture of the two of you together, and the options go on and on.  A very powerful text is writing out a prayer.

*Phone Calls:  Phone calls are becoming less frequent in our texting society.  (I often could go WEEKS without receiving a phone call from a friend.  This was sad and lonely.)  A good conversation can be soothing balm to a hurting heart.  A phone call takes more courage and more effort than a text, but it is so worth it.  Remember to let go of any fear you might have about saying the right, or wrong

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thing and just give your friend a call.  If you are worried that it wouldn’t be good timing for your friend you can shoot a text first asking if this is a good time or when a good time would be to have a chat.  You can even start off the conversation by saying “I know there isn’t anything I can say or do to “fix” this or make it better, but I just want you to know I care!”  Getting this out in the open is freeing for both of you and the conversation will flow naturally from this point on.  You can allow your friend to vent, share about her hurt or allow her to talk about anything but her heartache.  Let your friend have the freedom to talk about whatever she wants to.  The fact you called is more important than any words you will actually say!!

*Written Word… Notes and Cards:  Opening the mailbox and finding a handwritten note is a very special thing!  In our world of technology we rarely send or receive handwritten letters or cards.  Texts and emails have their place, but a card or note you can hold in your hand has power that a text or email can never have.  Often cards are set out to be looked at over and over!  Mailing a card or letter takes more effort that an email or text and that effort is felt by your friend! These cards and notes are tangible expressions of love.

2) Spend face-to-face time WITH your friend

While texts, calls, emails and handwritten notes all have their place of importance, our hurting friend NEEDS to have face to face contact, too..  It is easy for us to neglect this because we often think our friend might have too much on her plate to take time to visit.  However, while this may be true, often a hurting friend is longing for some face to face time.  Reach out and ask…. if it isn’t good timing let your friend decline the invitation.  It is better to ask than to not ask!

photo-1461595520627-42e3c83019bcSpecific Ideas:   Ask her out, or have over to your place, for coffee, dinner, a walk, play date with the kids, a trip to the library or museum, go to an event or game, sit around a camp fire, visit her at the hospital, go with her to appointments, meet for a bible study and time of prayer or anything else that the two of you enjoy doing!  The options are limitless and the impact is huge!!  You can also get your group of friends together rather than it always being one-on-one.  Make sure that you don’t stop including your friend in the things you have always done together.  While she might not always be able to do the same things it is important that she knows she is invited and wanted.

 

3) Give A HUG!

Some of us are “huggers” and some of us are not…. Each of us have a different level of comfort with hugs.  You know your friend, but most people find hugs comforting and receive them with joy.  So when you see your friend face to face, reach out and give a hug!  A hug doesn’t take words to communicate we care and is often just the thing our friend needs.

 

4) Acts of Service, the gift of giving practical help

When your friend is going through intense times there are a lot of ways you can give the gift of practical service/help.  You can give her room on her plate by taking care of a detail or physical need she has.  The options for DOING things for a hurting friend are numerous.  One huge piece of advice: rather than asking your friend “Let me know if there is any thing I can do to help”  choose instead to say to her “I want to help.  Please tell me something I can do for you this week that would be helpful to you.”  If she says she is fine and doesn’t need you to do anything you can give her ideas and suggestions.  Often our friends don’t want to feel like a bother and will resist help, even when it is so desperately needed.

Specific ways to give practical help:  fix a meal, run an errand, transport kids, help kids with homework, mow the yard, clean the house (or just one task such as mop the kitchen or clean the bathrooms), do the laundry, shovel snow, wash/clean out the car, watch the kids, go to an appointment with her, plant/water/weed her flowers, help decorate for the holidays, walk the dog, take the trash out for garbage day, get the mail, etc.  You know all the tasks involved in day to day life.  Think of one or two that you know you can do for her and do it!

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5) Gifts/Generosity

When our friends are going through hard times it is common for them to have financial needs.  Sometimes there are extra bills, decreased income, or both.  If the situation is severe community fundraisers can be very effective ways to help support and provide.  However, this much is not always needed and there are MANY simple ways you can lighten the load for your friend or give her a gift to show you care.

Specific ways to give: 

Gifts to cheer: books, music, flowers, candy, coffee, art, or anything you know she would enjoy.

Gift cards for gas, groceries, household needs, meals are always helpful.  Food is always helpful, whether it is a prepared meal, a freezer meal, a gift card or a bag of groceries.

Gas is always needed.

Extra help at holidays or kid’s birthdays, school enrollment fees, school supplies/clothes, snow removal or lawn care, laundry soap or money for laundry mat, personal care supplies, etc.  Obviously the ideas could go on and on.

 

YOU have a BIG heart and WANT to help your hurting friend!!  Just by reading this you show your heart!  I hope that this post has given you a framework of practical ideas for helping your hurting friend.

 

I would love to hear from you!  Share with me ways you have been able to help a hurting friend OR tell me about a time a friend reached out and blessed you!!

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10 Comments

  1. Rhonda Overman

    Awesome post, Heather! When our oldest daughter Suzie was involved in horrible car accident, we were amazed at the thought our friends, neighbors, church family and community put into ministering to our family. From walking the dog to delivering groceries, having our house cleaned and dozens of meals at the hospital and later the nursing home, we felt loved. When you’re walking around in a fog and totally focused on a life-altering event, every little task can be overwhelming, as you know. We will never forget God’s grace shown through others. Thanks for sharing!

    • Heather

      Thanks, Brittany!! I have been blessed with some really great friends that have been very supportive!! And thank you for being a friend to Wes!!

  2. Leanne

    these are all such great reminders! you can also take friends out for pancakes 🙂 I have hated your journey of leukemia…. but I am SO THANKFUL for the ways it has brought us closer!!!!
    I would also add, to choose “counseling” carefully…. the last thing a hurting person needs is to hear her feelings aren’t “right”, “godly”, “sinful”, etc… feelings are what they are and giving a friend a safe space is more of a soothing balm than any “counsel” we can provide….

    • Heather

      Pancake suppers are the BEST!! I agree…. the leukemia journey is not fun… but there are good things! Yes, important to give your friend Godly counsel! YOU are a treasure!!! Thank you for being one of the key friends in my life that lived out these 5 ways to reach out!!

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