Who doesn’t love a rainy day? It feels like the perfect time to put on a movie, light a candle, cozy up on the couch, and recharge your batteries. However, when the storm clouds hang over your life in a more intangible way it can be hard to see the sun at the end of it. One of the stormiest times in my life was when I lost my dad to cancer in 2018. When he was initially diagnosed, the clouds felt heavy and overwhelming. There was no way that I could wrap my head around the fact that he would only be physically present for one more year. What followed were some of the hardest years of my life. But in the midst of that darkness, there were people who showed up for me in a way that revealed glimpses of sunlight.
There is no rule book on how to be a good friend when someone is going through a hard moment in their life. While I was grieving the loss of my dad, I had a truly amazing group of humans surrounding me and making me feel loved. I can’t tell you how to be the perfect friend when the clouds come and the rain falls down on someone in your life but I can lend my advice as someone who has walked through it.
1. The little things matter and are things they’ll never forget.
When I finally came back to my apartment from being away for a few weeks, it just so happened to be my birthday. I assumed I was walking into an empty apartment but what I walked into was a fridge full of meals some of my friends had prepared and a plethora of thoughtful gifts: fresh flowers, dog toys, my favorite magazines, and more. If you can, take a few steps out of your way to make sure your friend has extra comforts to feel safe and loved when they really need it. Even the simple act of bringing someone a coffee can make a world of difference.
2. Don’t stop checking in.
I stopped answering my phone for months and only saw a handful of people. That doesn’t mean the texts I was receiving didn’t make me feel seen and loved – it meant the world to me. Don’t always expect an answer, but know that your message is appreciated and touches a piece of their heart.
3. Be ready for tears and emotions when they reemerge back into your social circle.
The pain doesn’t go away once they reenter normal life – there will be times you may be out to dinner and they burst into tears for no apparent reason. They can’t help or control when something triggers overwhelming emotions. Be patient and be kind. Be ready to be a shoulder to cry on.
4. Don't be afraid to talk about it.
My biggest piece of advice comes from one of my favorite quotes from Elizabeth Edwards in a speech after losing her son. She said, "If you know someone who has lost a child or lost anybody who's important to them, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn't forget they died. You're not reminding them. What you're reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that's a great, great gift.” When something painful happens to someone you know and love, sometimes it’s easier to avoid the situation and not ask how they’re feeling about it. Let them lead the way on conversation but make it clear you’re there to talk through it anytime. Traumatic experiences stick with people, so even if it’s years later a simple prompt asking how they are doing goes a long way. My favorite thing in the entire world is someone else being reminded of my dad or remembering a story I told about him. Your friend will always appreciate your prompts to know more and have a safe place to talk.
Not everyone walks through the stormy moments of life the same. Pain and healing are never linear. I encourage you to have patience and understanding but above all just try to listen to your friend and pay attention to their queues. If you keep an open mind and heart, ask intentional questions, and lead with kindness then you are doing exactly what you should be. Showing up for them time after time is the most valuable gift you can give and I can promise your friend will appreciate it for years to come.
– Molly Meetz, Fresh Sends Director of Partnerships