Helping Out A Friend In Deep Distress
A true friend is not only there for you during the good times but also the bad. A true friendship is being at your worst and still be loved unconditionally. When your friend is in need during a distressing time of their life, here are ways you can be their true hero.
Meet your friend where they are and do not try to push them into your own agenda. Allow them to open up with their processing in their time. Be an avid listener by learning to just listen without interruption. Resist the urge to relate to their story, such as, “ Oh yeah, I went through this and here is how I handled it.” Do not make any part of their processing about you or your experiences. Be fully present and be able to reflect back what your friend is trying to relate to you.
Try not to be a tough guy with statements of “you’ll get over this soon.” There is no set time limit for grieving especially when it is fresh. Remember it is o.k. to not fill the void with words to prevent an awkward silence. Sometimes the most important part of the processing is pausing for a moment just to breathe. When your friend is trying to discuss their distress, make it a safe nonjudgmental place for them to process. A kind touch, a nod of understanding, or even a soft kleenex allows your friend to know it’s perfectly normal to cry as much as needed.
It will be beneficial to let your friend know you will be there for them when they need to talk and if for some reason you are not available, you will collaborate with other supports they will be comfortable with until you are able to be present. The main part of assisting one in distress is to let them know they are safe and not alone. Even if you can’t take away their pain, or always be present, you can promise you will not let them handle this painful time in their life, by themselves.
Recovery time is different for everyone. What might take you a short time to recover and go back to your norm, may take your friend much longer to get back to their norm. Although there isn’t a set time for grieving or distressful event processing, it is important to know your limits. If you find you are not able to offer the amount of support that your friend needs, offer to help them find the right type of professional who specifically specializes in their type of crisis. Always offer to go to their first appointment with them for support or collateral assistance.
Going through the difficult times with your friend will strengthen your relationship for years to come. Make sure you save time to process yourself and to detach from your friend’s crisis when you are alone so you can take care of your own mental health as well. Being a good supportive friend does not mean you have to take on your friend’s pain by vicariously living through them. Keep in mind your own self-care and detachment will allow you to be the best supportive friend you can be.
Angela Tennyson, Crisis Clinician, MHP, CADC, Life Coach