What Do I Tell a Friend When She's Going Through a Bad Time?

Telling your friend you are there for her may be all you can do right now.
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It can be difficult to watch your friend go through a rough patch. It may leave you feeling helpless and powerless if she doesn't seem to respond to what you are saying. It's likely she is taking it all in, although she may not have the emotional strength right now to acknowledge it. Continue to support her because once her spirits are lifted, she will likely make use of your positive efforts.

1 I'm All Ears

Tell your friend, "I can see you are going through a tough time, and I am here if you need someone." Your friend may be reluctant to share at first, but she may choose to at another time. Russell Friedman, executive director of the Grief Recovery Institute, advises in an article "How to Help a Grieving Friend" for "Psychology Today" that you be there for your friend by engaging in activities or hobbies you enjoy together. For example, while taking a hike together, say, "I noticed you seem sad. Would you like to talk about your breakup with John?" She may open up about it or find solace in the fact that she has you as a friend she can rely on.

2 Pay Attention

When a friend is in crisis reach out to her through text, phone or email. Show empathy and listen actively to her entire story and ask for clarification if you have difficulty understanding something, according to Gail Brenner, a psychologist and blogger of "A Flourishing Life." For example, if your friend is mourning the death of her grandmother, begin by offering your sympathy and condolences. Start a conversation with her by saying, "I remember when your grandmother sang karaoke with us at your graduation party. She was a great person." A statement like this may help your friend to relax and open up. Avoid sharing too much from your own personal stories or saying things such as, "I know how you feel" or "I lost my grandmother, too," as this makes the loss about you and takes away from your friend expressing her grief, according to Friedman.

3 Check-in Time

While people have good intentions, they often give the abundance of their support when a crisis or trauma first occurs. After your friend's life has returned to normal, continue to check in periodically in the weeks and months ahead to assure her that she has your continuing support should she need it. For example, if your friend's parents divorced a few months ago, open a conversation by asking, "What did you do at your father's house this weekend?" Your friend may be over the initial shock that her parents are divorced, but she is likely still transitioning into her new lifestyle.

4 A Deeper Issue

Take notice if your friend continues to struggle with eating or sleeping, has concentration problems at school or work or seems more isolated than before, and say, "I want to help you, but I feel helpless to do so in this situation. I feel you should talk to someone about this," suggests Friedman. Voice your concerns to her loved ones and anyone she is close to who can be of assistance. If she is found to have a deeper issue, such as depression, tell her, "I will support you through this and will be here for you." Include small gestures like holding her hand, giving her a shoulder to cry on or bringing her favorite ice cream over to share together, suggests psychologist Deborah Serani in an article "9 Best Ways to Support Someone With Depression" for PsychCentral.com.

Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.