Best friendship is not always corn dogs and movie marathons (ok, maybe only like 80% of the time). If you’re true friends, you’ll be there for the bad stuff, too. You’ll be there for the heartbreak and the tragedy and all the different disappointments life likes to spring on you. It can be a very alienating experience when one of you is really hurting about something and the other isn’t sure what to do. Because this situation is (hopefully) rare and because it’s often so dramatic, we sometimes bungle it with our confusion by saying the wrong things or reacting the wrong way. So, here are a few tips to keep in mind next time the other half of your lady bromance is hurtin’.
1. Be there
Make yourself available. She may not want to talk or see anyone or even leave her room, but let her know you’re there and that she can come to you when she needs to. Assure her that she won’t be inconveniencing you or burdening you in any way, assure her that you you’re really ready to handle what she is carrying–don’t just pay lip service. Let her know that it’s ok to talk or not talk.
Everyone handles pain differently so she may come running and want to drown her sorrows in a pile of chicken strip (is that just me?) or she may need her space. Respect whatever she chooses, but be there in case she needs you. Depending on the severity of the situation, that might mean cancelling plans to just be there with her.
2. Listen patiently
If you’re really there for her, you’re there with your undivided attention. This is a time in her life when she feels really awful, a time when she’s probably alone in her pain and when talking through her feelings will be the only thing that might make her feel better or help her move on or just help make sense of her feelings. If you’re not giving her your full attention, you’re being selfish. Listen honestly and thoroughly and patiently. Hear everything she has to say, even if it’s boring or repetitive or whatever. Your attention lets her know that she can keep talking and keep exorcising these feelings and that someone cares enough about her to listen. Sometimes a thoughtful silence from you is all it takes.
3. Tread softly
You may have gone through something similar, or maybe you consider yourself a sympathetic cryer or something. It doesn’t matter–don’t offer advice or consolations (“It’s better now,” etc). It may be true and it may be wise advice, but now is not the best time for her to appreciate it, unless you feel like that’s what she really wants to hear from you right now (usually in the form of, “Don’t worry, it’ll be ok”). The closer she is to the event (the breakup, the accident, the first B on her exam), the more likely that she’ll be governed by her emotions and not her logic. Let her get through the emotions first before you barge in with your reason. No one likes to be told what they could’ve done, what they should do in the future, or how that same thing totally happened to you. Not yet. Just say, “I know, I’m sorry,” or “That sucks,” and let her deal with her feelings without your help.
4. Do not make it about yourself
When friends tell us their bad news, it’s natural to think about how it affects us (though hopefully that’s not the first thing that comes to your mind) but that should be an internal monologue, ok? Do not under any circumstances tell your friend how her tragedy affects you. She’s kinda the one going through it, so she’s well aware that it’s awful. You’ll just sound really selfish and callous if you start discussing yourself. It’s not a good look for you. This is why you don’t start telling her about the time the same thing happened to you or about how you know how she feels (even if you think you do). In fact, the only sentence involving the word “I” coming out of your mouth should be, “I’m sorry.” It is her time, not yours.