How NOT to Support Friends When They Need You

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Everyone goes through seasons of their life when they need extra help.

And, in an ideal world, when you are going through something difficult, your community and support system can surround you with love and support.

I see this happen most often and most efficiently with new babies – thanks to software like Meal Train, it’s super easy to help a new mom with dinner for a few weeks or even months! It’s an exciting and exhausting time, and it’s a blessing for the mom to not have to worry about making dinner when her life revolves around trying to feed another human and get sleep… even just a few hours…

Unfortunately, most situations aren’t that simple.

Sometimes, it’s a lot harder to figure out how to support someone. Like when their loved one dies, they get a scary diagnosis, or they lose a job.

In those situations, there is nothing that will make it better. Nothing will fix the problem or the pain.

But you can still be a blessing with some consideration and empathy.

An Example of a Support System That Works

A few months ago, my husband had a major episode of anxiety that caused a major episode of insomnia. After three weeks without sleep, he was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital. He spent close to a month in both inpatient and outpatient programs and was out of work for well over two months.

Thankfully, our support system went into overdrive. I actually had to turn down offers to help because so many people showed us love. With only one set of parents in this part of the country, our friends and church family filled and overflowed that void.

I have spent so many days wanting to be a support system like that for others, yet struggling to figure out the balance between loving and supporting but not being overbearing or causing them any additional work or pressure.

So when my family had this experience, it gave me a new perspective on what IS and IS NOT helpful for someone facing a difficult season.

8 Ways to Bless Your Friends In Need

1. Set Up a Meal Service

When I was in the waiting room of the psychiatric hospital, I had a friend from across the country call me and ask how things were going. She immediately set up a Meal Train for us and sent it to all our friends and family (with my permission, of course!).

By the time I left the hospital, dinner for the next two days was already taken care of. That burden was lifted off my shoulders before I even had a chance to put it on.

The amazing thing about living in 2021 is that you can create a Meal Train for anyone, anywhere, anytime. You don’t have to live nearby. You can also…

2. Send Food Delivery Gift Cards

If you choose Meal Train specifically, they have a partnership with GrubHub. So anyone who wants to send you a meal can do that with about four clicks.

You don’t have to live nearby, you don’t have to make a meal, you don’t have to figure out what kind of food they’ll like… you can support them with FOUR CLICKS.

To simplify it even further for you, click here to send a grubhub gift card, or click here to send a DoorDash gift card. If there isn’t a Meal Train, all you need is the recipients email address.

3. Deliver a Homemade Meal

This is a classic way to support others, and I don’t see it ever going away. After weeks of GrubHub deliveries, the homemade dinners we received were probably some of my favorite meals of all time.

This is a great way to support friends even if they’re just having a rough week. You don’t have to wait for trauma to show support. 

But don’t message them and say “would you want me to bring you dinner?” 

Instead, say, “I want to bring you dinner. Is today or tomorrow better?”

Small change of words… big difference.

4. Clean Their Yard

A few days into my husband’s hospital stay, one of his coworkers called me and said, “I drove by your house, and I’m going to bring my lawnmower over and cut your lawn.”

Then, a few days later, he brought a friend and they cleaned up the leaves and branches that we had been meaning to do for weeks. 

They saw a need, and they met it. They didn’t ask for anything, they didn’t complain, they just happily went above and beyond to show us support.

THAT is how you bless someone.

5. Babysit Their Kids

With my husband gone, I had a lot more of the burden at home. It was amazing to have friends and family reach out and offer to watch my kids so I could have a break.

Beyond the blessing that it was to have some time to breathe on my own, they didn’t just take my kids, plop them in front of the TV, and scroll TikTok.

They took my kids to play at a park, they played games with them, and they loved on them. It was JUST as refreshing for my kids as it was for me, if not more.

Pro Tip: This offer is only a blessing if you’re someone they know and trust, at least on some level. If you met at a bar for five minutes in 2019 and you want to show support, this probably isn’t your best option.

6. Do a Grocery Run

Do you know how many times in a period of 3-4 weeks, when my kids are finally asleep, that I realize I need something desperately from a store? It’s a pretty unreasonable number of times.

It was extremely helpful to have a few people near me who I was able to ask when I needed something.

An even better way to do it? If you know your friend is in a similar situation, text the day you’re heading to the grocery store and say, “I’m heading to Walmart, what can I pick up for you?”

7. Send a Gift Card

This may not be something they ask for, but I personally don’t know of a time when a gift card didn’t go to good use.

You can give gift cards to:

  • Target
  • Amazon
  • Redbox
  • Local consignment shops
  • ANYWHERE

Many people are going to have giant medical bills coming, and that’s enough to stress them out about finances. Gift cards are a blessing.

8. Pressure-Free Check In

I can’t describe to you in words how emotional it made me when I received caring messages from friends and family from all over the world. (Literally – I still cry when I think about it)

At the same time, after the first day, it was completely overwhelming to even think about responding to so many people. I wanted to, but I just didn’t have the energy left.

I knew that the majority of my friends and family were understanding when I didn’t text back–but I still felt the pressure that I should.

If you can’t do any of the other things, you can message your friend with something like this: “Hi ___! You’ve been on my mind and I wanted to tell you that I’ve been thinking and praying for you. I’m sure you’re overwhelmed and drained, so don’t feel any pressure to respond to this.”

What Doesn’t Help Your Friends in Need

A sentence that EVERYONE has probably said at some point, but isn’t actually helpful: “Let me know if there’s anything I can do!”

I truly believe that everyone who said this to me a few months ago said it with completely pure intentions. And there WERE a few times that I reached out to those people and asked for them to do something – but that’s the exception, not the rule.

Viewing Their Behavior, Not Their Heart

Keep in mind that some of the people around you are walking through the most difficult time of their life, but no one actually knows it.

Don’t assume that you’ll know when someone needs your support the most.

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