Five ways you can help a friend during a hard time

Carla McConnell by Carla McConnell
June 19th, 2017

When my partner and I split up it was hell. The practicalities of looking after two kids while putting one foot in front of the other felt like climbing Mt Everest mentally everyday. Dealing with cooking and cleaning and homework while breaking up meant that everyday felt like such an achievement when I made it to the end.

There were friends that came to the rescue that pulled me though everyday. Still to this day I cannot thank them enough. A kind act when you are feeling fragile can make all the difference in your day. Lots of people in times of trouble say ‘let me know if you need anything’. It’s a lovely offer but when you’re emotionally drowning, you’re not really in the headspace to call the school mum that offered help at pick-up and say; “my life is completely falling apart and I’m not coping, can you pop over for an hour or two and mind the kids while I cry in a corner?”

There were some people that reached out in very practical ways without me asking that REALLY  helped. If your friend is going through a break-up or just a hard time and you don’t know what to do I would highly recommend some of these things that helped me.

Hiring a cleaner

A very good friend of mine called me in the aftermath of my break-up and said, “I’ve organised for my cleaner to come over to your house for a couple of hours, what day would suit you?” Absolutely brilliant. First of all, she didn’t frame it as a question so I didn’t need to pretend to politely decline, because I seriously DID want someone to come over and clean my house. Secondly, I got to come home to a beautifully clean house without any effort and it lifted my spirits for the whole week.

Cooking a meal

Two of my friends from mother’s group got together and told me they wanted to do something practical to help and would I mind if they took turns cooking a meal for me every Monday. That was one whole day a week I didn’t need to worry about dinner, plus they left it on my doorstep even if I was home so I didn’t need to make polite conversation if I wasn’t in the mindframe. I was so blown away by the gesture and have felt closer to them both ever since.

Babysitting or school pick-ups and drop offs

There were lots of people that offered babysitting and picking up my daughters from school and childcare that helped in lots of ways. I think the way people offered also made a difference, such as the friends that said, “I can come over on Saturday from 10am to 1pm to look after the kids if you want to go get a pedi or do some shopping”. Being offered babysitting to go and have some ‘me’ time was really appreciated – and doesn’t a pedi make you feel better about the world?

A friend in a time of crisis can make all the difference

A friend in a time of crisis can make all the difference

A night time phone call

There were some days that I literally held my shit together all day only to dissolve in a pile of tears at night when I was alone on the couch. ‘Alone’ is the key word, because I have never felt so alone crying by myself on a couch (silently so the kids didn’t wake up). The friends that would pick up the phone and call after the kids bedtime, and ask how I was and what had happened in my day, literally saved me from losing my mind sometimes.

Not being excluded

There were times people didn’t ask me to events, especially couple events, because they didn’t want to put me in an awkward position. The friends that made sure I was still included on all the invites made me feel less like a social pariah; especially when I said no and they kept on asking because eventually, I did feel like saying yes again.

Break-ups are hideous, especially when there are kids involved, but small gestures can make such a difference. Solid friendships can really be the thing that pulls you through. Sometimes just a simple ‘how are you?’ and actually truly being ready for whatever the answer is, can be the best thing you can do for someone going through a hard time. Seriously though, a cleaner is major bonus points.

How have you helped a friend through a hard time? 

Mary Coustas talked about how much her girlfriends were there for her during the loss of her daughter, Stevie. You can listen to this chat in podcast form below and subscribe to our podcast here.