10 Ways to Support Your Friend in a Crisis
Caring Bridge Journal Entry — May 2, 2018
A year ago, I was at a conference where a very wise woman said,
"People are [emotionally] bleeding all around us. They don't need us to stop the bleeding. We can't. They just need us to be with them."
During my bleeding crisis (physical and emotional), Chris and I learned a lot about ourselves and the difference between what we thought we needed and what we actually needed. I think it's time to share. Why? Because in our world, during the past week, one friend had a brain tumor removed, one friend had an appendix removed, and one friend got an unexpected call from an oncologist. Now that our family is somewhat stable, we have the privilege of putting some of these lessons into practice. I hope these help you to be with those who are "bleeding" all around you.
10 Ways to Support Friends During a Crisis
A person in crisis often can't answer the question, "How can I help?" They don't know. So don't wait around for an answer. Instead, just do something.
Merely the presence of a friend in a moment of extreme stress is comforting. Just show up. (We had one friend come to the ICU at 11:00pm with a bag of snacks. What a comfort it was to Chris to just talk and eat with someone removed from the stress. Another time, we had a friend show up at the ER and follow us to a different hospital. She didn't do anything or bring anything, she just stayed with us. She prayed off and on all day, without bothering Chris to ask if it was ok to do that. Chris said it was a comfort to not be alone in the shuffle.)
Knowing someone is praying specifically for you is comforting. But you cannot know that if the praying person doesn't tell you. So speak up, Prayer Warrior.
Bringing a meal is more than just a meal. It is relief from planning a meal, shopping for a meal, and preparing a meal. Put the meal in a disposable tray and you add relief from washing up after a meal. You just kept people alive when your friends may have forgotten to feed their family. Seriously.
Texting questions can, at times, feel like a burden to a person facing decision fatigue, mental fatigue or emotional fatigue. So text a written prayer, a scripture, or a song instead. Also good: text things unrelated to the crisis... a photo, a memory, a joke. Text things that don't require an immediate response. (Chris said the most helpful texts were the ones that felt like an ongoing conversation....ongoing over days. Just little notes to keep the conversation going without solely being requests for updates on the crisis.)
Assume some basic things. The lawn will need to be mowed. Don't ask, just mow it. (We had one friend who assumed our kids would sleep better with a little lavender diffused in the house. So she found the diffuser and got to it. No questions necessary.)
Don't underestimate the little things. Seriously. Little things can bring huge comfort. If you feel like sending a card, send it. If you feel like weeding the front porch, weed it. If you feel like loaning your friend a book to get her mind off the crisis, then loan it. If you feel like taking their kids to the park, take them. If you feel like driving 45 minutes to pray with your friend in person, then get in the car and go. Follow the prompting in your heart. I'm confident that if you are a praying person, the prompting will be from God and it will fill a need, maybe even a need your friend hasn't realized yet. (We had an anonymous friend leave a package for the whole family on our front porch. It included activities for the kids, magazines for me to read, fuzzy socks for comfort, lemonade, etc. It was extremely thoughtful and yet I wouldn't have thought to ask for it.)
If you see an area that your stressed out friend is forgetting, speak up. And be ready with a solution. (We accidentally forgot to send lunch with Hope for about a week. Our sweet friends fed her, of course. But even better, one friend pointed out the problem to Chris and offered an easy solution on the spot. What a relief to not have to process a small decision amidst so many life-threatening decisions.)
Don't be offended if your friend in crisis puts a system in place to deal with the bazillion things coming at them all at once. On the surface, it may feel impersonal. But you can show kindness by recognizing the system as a help to your friend in need. It is helping them make it through just like any of the other helps you are offering them. So engage in the system with gladness.
Don't stop helping. It's easy to think others will continue helping as the stress subsides. But the need is still there. So YOU be there. Keep texting. Keep bringing meals. Keep at it until the person in crisis asks you to stop. I promise they will...when they are ready.
Just do something, even if you aren't confident it's exactly the "right thing." It's infinitely more helpful to take an action than to simply offer your help.
"Love is a verb" (DC Talk)