I think this post is a great follow-up to Traci's guest post on what loss taught her.
It's easy for me to say that I will pray for someone when they are going through a tough time, but the not so easy part is actually, physically and emotionally making myself available to that individual. I think part of the reason is that I then become emotionally involved, and I don't want to hurt.
But, hurting with your friends is part of friendship. My dearest friends are the ones who I have cried with and laughed with.
Don't be afraid to extend yourself to a friend when they are weathering a storm. It is important that they know that you really are caring for them. Together you will both be strengthened and encouraged.
1 - Make her a priority and follow through. If you're anything like me, it's often time in one ear and out the other. I have the best of intentions. "I'll call you this week and check in on you." And, when I made that statement, I truly meant it. But, it was said at church. And then I went out for lunch. And then the crazy week started. And pretty soon, it was Sunday again and I never called my hurting friend. Oops. Now I feel bad, but who knows are much worse my already hurting friend feels that I forgot about her. So, write it down! If you're a list maker, this will be easy for you. If you're a sticky noter, just make sure you put the note in an obvious place. If you haven't checked in by Wednesday, DO IT! It might be awkward, but even just a quick hello will suffice.
2 - Invite her out for coffee/lunch/dinner/play-dates/etc...It doesn't matter what you invite your friend to. The important thing is that you make the effort to get them out! After I had my daughter, the world around me was changed forever! My parents moved far away from me, my hormones were raging out of control, and some of my family members were having a difficult time, which began to affect me personally. I felt like I was trapped, but I was nursing and needed to be home with my baby. THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED was when my Party Chick called and told me she was coming over in 10 minutes and we were going OUT. We were only gone for an hour, but that was definitely a turning point.
3 - Bring something in. Call first, but bring over dinner, or breakfast. You could bring drinks or a snack. Whatever you bring, offer it as a blessing to your friend. If you are invited to stay, make sure that you can. Remember, make yourself available. But, don't take it personally if your friend does not extend an invite to lounge around. They may not be ready to talk, but they will be thankful for the blessing.
4 - Really listen. If you have kids (or a significant other) you know that not everyone listens to what you say (and vice versa...). When your friend decides to open up to you, remember that this is not the time to try to multitask. This will be easier if you are face to face, but you will need to make a conscious effort at truly listening (and not chiming in your thoughts and opinions unless they have been requested). Try not to make mental grocery lists or think about what you need to do after this. If your friend is spilling her heart to you over the phone, walk away from the computer. Put down your pen. Close your book. Open your heart and listen. Also, and this can be a tricky one, don't assume you know what the underlying problem is. Avoid the gossip going on around you and listen only to your friend. Since it's her life, I'm sure she'll have more insight as to what is going on with her than your busy-body "good intentioned" friends!
5 - Make your offers specific. Someone once told me that when someone is hurting, or needs help, don't say, "Call me if you need anything." Because, 9 times out of 10, they won't. Instead, make specific offers. "Do you want me to pick up your son on Friday and bring him over to my house?" Or, even better, "I'll pick up your son on Friday and bring him over to my house for dinner. I'll bring him home around 6." Your friend can still say no, but you have made a very specific offer in a way that will help her.I had a lot of ladies offer to do my grocery shopping for me, or they would call when they were on their way to the store to see if I needed anything. This was super helpful! And, how easy. They were already going to the store. Another offer that was so humbling for me was when ladies offered to help me clean my house. I was physically unable to do it, and seeing that dust build up was starting to make me twitch. This was such a blessing to have ladies willing to bless me in such a way. Again, an easy thing to do, and yet, so helpful.
6 - Try praying with your friend. Many of us don't like praying outloud. But, I know that when someone says they will be praying for me, I'm not sure who really will commit to it. However, if someone says, "Let me pray for you," that is immediate. I know this person is actually praying. Plus, I feel as though that person will continue to stand in the gap for me. This is putting a little action behind your words.
7 - Offer words of encouragement. You may not have the perfect words to say, but just saying that you're sorry, or you can't even imagine what it's like. Sometimes just an "I love you" will suffice. If you have not experienced their pain, try to refrain from phrases like, "I know how you feel" or "I understand." You have the best of intentions, but these often times are misconstrued and misinterpreted, and will put distance between you, instead of bringing you closer.Sending a card is also a great way to love on your friends. Who doesn't love getting mail? This is a fast way for you to send your love her way and offer your friend encouragement!
8 - Understand the emotional roller-coaster. If your friend is suffering from a loss, remember that they will go through many different emotions. The grieving process includes times when they will feel sad, angry, guilty, happy, confused, etc. Please don't take emotional outbursts personally. If a friend asks for some time alone, honor her request. She is not upset with you, but needs time to process her feelings. You can still love on her. This is the prime time to bring in something for her and leave. Maybe bring over a sweet card or send one. Don't forget about her, though. Don't let yourself get hurt and wait for her to contact you when "she's ready". Continue to be proactive. In a week, give her a quick call to let her know that you are thinking of her. Ask if you can bring something over. Offer to do something for her. Don't write her off!
9 - Respect her privacy! If you have been let in to confident pieces of your friend's heart, DO NOT disclose this information to anyone else. TO ANYONE ELSE!!! You have been entrusted to keep something very personal, and she is counting on you to remain true to your word. Lock it up like Fort Knox. If you struggle with this, then you need to pray that God will give you the needed strength to keep this information private. Write it down on paper and then shred it. Whatever you have to do, you must remain loyal to your friend. Many friendships have ended due to gossip. REMEMBER: Bringing up a "prayer request" about your friend's personal situation is the same as gossip! If she wants prayer, she'll ask for it. Stand down!NOTE: If your friend is in danger, make sure you encourage her to seek help. Use your best judgement. In a situation where she has told you that she is planning on harming herself, or someone else, you'll need to discern what must be done. Gossip is very different than alerting the authorities, or calling a helpline. This may upset her initially, and may possibly end your friendship, but you also need to do what is right.
10 - Invite the Lord to help you. Just because you have made yourself available to your friend does not mean that you must go this alone. God is always there to help you. He will give you strength, patience, compassion, whatever you are in need of, He will provide for you.
Thank you, Sarah Mae, for this opportunity to post over here. I hope these tips were helpful. I'm planning on outlining some suggestions on how to "weather" your own storm. Come on over and check it out.