Even if you can’t physically be there for someone you love, you can still show up for them emotionally. Our world is as connected as it ever has been. Yet, real, deep connections may feel few and far between. How can you show a loved one you really care if they are going through one of the hardest periods of their life? How can anything ever be enough?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Be There for Someone Who Lost a Loved One
- How to Be There for Someone Going Through Another Hard Time
- How to Be There for Someone Who’s Sick
Though you may feel like you’ll never do “enough” for your loved one, effort alone is enough. We’ve provided a variety of ways to be there for a loved one for a range of different scenarios. This includes if they have lost a loved one, is going through another hard time, or they are sick.
How to Be There for Someone Who Lost a Loved One
Losing a loved one is arguably one of the hardest things anyone will ever go through. And, unfortunately, it will happen to just about everyone.
This makes it all the more critical — and perhaps easier to relate — to the person you’re comforting. You may also be interested in tips for how to send a condolence message to a friend.
1. Cook or bake for them
Home-cooked meals and baked goods are something to celebrate on even the best days. Imagine how good it’ll feel to your loved one if you present them with something you’ve made from scratch? Even if it’s just a fresh box of mac and cheese, they will likely love that you tried anyway (and may laugh a little, too).
You may choose to cook one of your signature dishes or recreate one of your loved one’s favorite meals from the two of you dining out together. And, if it’s a total disaster, perhaps the two of you can complete a second attempt together.
2. Help them around the house
Like running errands, keeping a clean home is often difficult when we’re at our best — much less at our worst. Dealing with a death in the family, especially if your loved one lost someone they lived with, may have a hard time touching anything in their home.
While this is understandable, there are examples of healthier grief rituals than foregoing regular housekeeping.
3. Remind them of their sense of humor
You can get creative with how to go about this, but it’s important not to let your loved one forget how to laugh. Even if you’re not one for stand-up yourself, it’s likely that you know something that will make your loved one remember happier days.
You can watch a few of your favorite comedies together, recall some embarrassing stories, and just act like your truest selves — no matter how “embarrassing.”
4. Set an appointment
Of course, there aren’t just four ways for how to help a grieving friend or loved one. One way to keep your commitment to your loved one who’s grieving, however, is to set an appointment with them.
You can work out among your schedules how often this “appointment” should occur and what it will entail. Whether it’s a daily five-minute chat on the phone, a weekly brunch date, or a monthly trip to the beach, you should intentionally set aside time for the people who need you most — and keep your word.
How to Be There for Someone Going Through Another Hard Time
A “hard time” is subjective. Maybe your loved one is experiencing a temporary hardship or an ongoing battle. No matter what the case may be, showing up for them — if even in tiny ways — can make all the difference.
5. Create a memory jar for them
Creating a memory jar of inside jokes, short stories, and other things personal to the two of you is a unique way to remind your loved one of better days, and give them hope for better days ahead.
You can even tailor the memory jar to reflect a specific time in your lives, such as when the two of you were in college or time the two of you spent with each other’s families growing up.
6. Take a trip with them (if even locally)
Sometimes everyone could use a change of scenery, even if it’s just for a drive around town. Taking your loved one on a trip either locally or farther away is a great way to help them get their mind off of what’s bothering them.
You shouldn’t necessarily shut down their desire to have tough conversations during the trip, but it’s likely you can shift their focus to be a little bit more positive and forward-focused, if only for a few minutes at a time.
7. Run errands for them
It’s often the little, yet essential, tasks that become the most difficult during hard times. You may hear about people not wanting to leave their homes during hardships, even if it’s for something as enticing as a good meal.
You can likely help your loved one out a great deal by running errands either for or with them (if they’re up for it). Sometimes all someone needs is company, even if they don’t want or know how to ask for it.
It’s likely, too, that their emotions will be running high during this time. You being there can shield them from losing it over those little snags and inconveniences that seem to arise when we least need them.
8. Share a unique experience
This idea may sound vague, but perhaps you and your loved one aren’t much of risk-takers. Or, perhaps one of you is and the other is not. Though the hard time they are going through isn’t something that should be forgotten, it’s important to create new memories, too.
A great way to do this is to share some sort of new experience. Whether it’s crossing something off of your bucket lists or getting a tattoo together, there’s likely an activity that can become uniquely yours.
How to Be There for Someone Who’s Sick
It may seem particularly difficult to be there for someone who’s sick, especially if their condition prohibits visitors.
However, there are still ways for you to show you’re there for them that are pretty impactful. You can easily create the feeling that you’re there in the room with them, even if you can’t be.
9. Check in via text or DM
The most foolproof way to be there for someone when you can’t actually be there, of course, is to text or DM them. With gifs, videos, and more on social media, it’s unlikely that your conversations will be very dull.
You can even choose to quote entire movies together or send some of your favorite song lyrics back and forth. And, if that gets old, entertain them by sending them videos of you just being you.
There are also tons of games and other apps that enable connectivity even when it feels like you’re worlds apart from the people you love the most. Of course, it’s important to ask how you can help, above all else.
10. Send him or her a useful gift
If your loved one is fidgety or hates not feeling “productive,” you can send them a portable new hobby or way to channel their energy. Whether it’s something simple like a book of crossword puzzles or an elaborate wood carving kit, you’re sure to think of something they will love.
Whenever they work on it, they’ll be thinking of you. Hobbies that keep the hands (and the mind) busy are a great way to pass the time. Plus, it’s likely that the hobby will create tangible mementos for your loved one to enjoy afterward.
11. Virtually read to them or watch a movie together
If your loved one doesn’t care for video chatting, or you’d just like to mix up a virtual activity for the two of you to do together, you may choose to read them a book or watch a movie together.
There are capabilities of some streaming services, such as Netflix Party, that allow you to sync pausing to have a discussion or take snack breaks. And, a bonus idea, if your loved one is staying somewhere with windows or is otherwise accessible, you can surprise them and show up outside—just be sure it’s not during a startling part of a show or movie.
12. Write a book about them or make art for them
Creating something with your own two hands may sound intimidating — but whether or not your short story or art piece can stand up to critics isn’t the point. It’s quite likely no matter how “good” or “bad” your creation is, the more it will make your loved one smile.
You may choose to write them a book about a specific memory you have of the two of you or even a longer work about their life. You may also be interested in our post on how to write a commemorative speech.
When it comes to the particular art piece you may choose to make, you should remember that art is subjective. It doesn’t have to be a canvas. Perhaps you’d prefer to draw a scene on a cookie cake instead.
What connects all of these different ways in which you can be there for someone you love? Just listening. Listen to them. Even if they don’t have much to say at any given time, listen to their silence, too.
It can often say a lot. Listening is the best way to build a better understanding of anyone and anything. In order to help your loved one, you have to fully understand what they are going through. Only then can you help them better focus on healing. For more resources, such as understanding death positivity, check out the rest of Cake.