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Helping a Friend Through a Hard Time

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A close friend receives a devastating diagnosis, abruptly loses a spouse to a stroke, or is suddenly enlisted as a caregiver for a family member – when someone close to you is dealing with a tragedy or a prolonged stint of stress, sometimes it’s hard to know how to respond.

That uncertainty can lead to procrastination and guilt on your part, and a sense of abandonment and loneliness for the very person you’re aching to help. 

So what can you do the next time a friend is faced with one of life’s rough patches? I asked a handful of people to share the gestures that they appreciated, or wished that someone had thought to offer during such a dark period. 

I think you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was at some of these thoughtful and creative ways of lending support to a loved one. Hopefully, they’ll offer inspiration the next time a friend is faced with one of these situations. 

Read my Good Times story here. 

You can also find more great ideas in the book, How Can I Help? Your Go-To Guide for Helping Loved Ones Through Life’s Difficulties, by Sherrie Dunleavy. 

Thanks you to all of the generous interviewees, including caregiver advocate extraordinaire and cofounder of The Change Foundation, @AllowayCa; in-real-life friends @suzanneboles and @FrancesFound, and Twitter friend @scatteredmom. 

Photo by Kat Jayne, courtesy of