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Practical Ways to Help a Friend Who is Hurting

Yesterday, in preparation for a talk I'm giving, I asked a question on my Instagram stories: "What's the best thing a friend did for you when you were suffering?" I was flooded with such lovely responses that, truthfully, I cried huge tears. There are many, many people out there doing the daily, unseen work of loving others. What an encouragement.

A young woman at my church suggested that I compile all the responses as a resource for when we want to help a friend but are unsure exactly what to do. As you read them below, take note of the themes and store these away for when your friend or family member is going through something painful and difficult.

A young woman at my church suggested that I compile all the responses as a resource for when we want to help a friend but are unsure exactly what to do. As you read them below, take note of the themes and store these away for when your friend or family member is going through something painful and difficult.

  • She acknowledged that what I was going through was hard and then just cried with me.

  • She brought a homemade meal to the hospital.

  • She came to my house and prayed with me.

  • She showed up at my house without asking and gave me the tightest hug without letting go.

  • My BFF took off of work for three weeks (and left her own family) to come to me when I had brain surgery. After my brain surgery, a friend paid to have my house cleaned for six weeks. Best gift ever!

  • She actively listened, let me cry in her presence, and prayed for me.

  • She consistently checked on me in a way that told me I was loved. For me that was just sitting with me.

  • She showed up late at night to bring a baby swing to help our cholicy baby. Then she came back the next day to simply sit in the mess of it all and let me talk.

  • They told us specifically how they were praying for us and shared Scripture without trying to fix our problem.

  • She brought dinner over without asking me if I needed anything.

  • She sat and cried with me. She didn't put a timeline on my healing.

  • She listened and wept with me. She didn't try to fix it, but just tried to understand.

  • She prayed for me.

  • She stayed with me so I wouldn't be alone in my thoughts.

  • She showed up.

  • She gave our family meals, babysat, called me randomly and said, "Hey do you want to come over?"

  • She told me with empathy and faith that God really did have a plan for me and He really is good.

  • She cried and prayed with me. She didn't try to fix it.

  • She checked in with me at regular intervals.

  • She encouraged me in the Word, especially reminding me of God's faithfulness.

  • She didn’t try to use Scripture to tell me God is good and in control of my situation. She just sat in silence and let me cry.

  • She listened.

  • She acknowledged my loss,  let me cry, talk, be silent, whatever I needed in the moment.

  • They listened without trying to fix the problem.

  • She set up a girls date night for me when I was so sad about being single.

  • After a miscarriage, she came to my hide out and got down on her knees and cried with me.

  • She cleaned my oven while I was asleep with my two week old.

  • She made us dinner.

  • She "porch dropped" dinner for my family, as well as notes of encouragement.

  • She brought over a meal and took my kids without asking.

  • She drove two hours at the drop of a hat to sit next to me and then kept checking in for months.

  • She asked: "Are you processing out loud or do you want my input?"

  • She took my grocery list, shopped for me, and paid for it. And brought me dinner too.

  • She texted me to say she was praying for me and brought dinner for the whole family.

  • She texted or called me every day to check on me and see if I needed anything.

  • She brought a meal, sat with us at the hospital, and sent a text of a verse she was praying.

  • She gave me a listening ear. She met me away from my home.

  • She brought me a treat, a "pick me up" goodies bag, and put cards and chocolate at my door.

  • She was just there. She let me be me with no expectations. She didn't try to fix it but also didn't ignore it.

  • She asked questions.

  • She remembered dates, like the monthly anniversary of my son's death.

  • She checked in a few weeks or months later, when it seemed to be over but I was still healing.

  • She let me grieve and share without judgment.

  • She answered my phone call to her and then listened and prayed for me.

  • She prayed for me when I couldn't.

  • She just showed up to my house and did all the loads of laundry that had piled up.

  • She immediately brought me a quiche and flowers. She remembered important dates.

  • She showed up at my house even though I didn't want to see anyone.

  • She sought me out at church and made it a point to sit and talk with me each week.

  • She prayed over me.

  • She committed a consistent time each week to meet with me in order to pray.

  • She gave me food, slept on my couch, and left without a word except: "You are prayed for."

  • She sang, prayed, and read Scripture for me when I could barely breathe with anxiety.

  • She sat with me and talked about everything under the sun except the crisis.

  • She took my kids. It was a respite for me and a respite for the kids, too.

  • She gave me hope that things would not always be like they were in my time of suffering.

  • She brought my family food, cleaned my house, and took care of my kids when I couldn't.

  • She sat with me in it. She didn't force a certain response or time frame.

  • After my brother suddenly passed away, our fridge was stocked with food from many people. We appreciated it, but we were so shocked we weren't eating. The best thing was a cooler full of bottled waters. Our friend came every day for a week to put fresh ice in that cooler and make sure the waters were well stocked. This was the most helpful, practical gesture during that time.

  • Earlier this year, my best friend lost her 39-year-old husband and I was wrecked. It was so hard to lose him and even harder to watch her and support her in her pain and her young children's pain. I had a good friend who reached out to me during the initial shock of it all, who knew that the burden of grief I was carrying for and with my friend was overwhelming, and she said to me that she was there to support me and uphold me in prayer while I was trying to do the same for my friend.

Isn't this so encouraging? Let's learn from these beautiful examples of friendship.

For a printable copy of this list, click here.

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