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

by C. Giles

It's tough to watch a friend going through a bad time, and even tougher when you feel unable to help her get through it. It can be difficult to know what to say to make her feel better. Simply being there for her is an excellent place to start, however. A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes, and offering a sympathetic ear to your friend may help ease her pain.

I'm Here for You

Don't worry about coming out with something profound. Simply being there for your friend and providing her with a shoulder to cry on is enough. Keep it simple; tell her you are there for her. Be honest, advises licensed clinical psychologist Liz Hale. If you don't know what to say, tell her that.

You Can Talk to Me

Sometimes people going through a difficult time don't want to burden others with their problems and end up bottling them up, making themselves feel worse. Tell your friend she can talk to you. Don't feel that you have to solve her problem. Just offer a sympathetic ear and be a good listener.

You're Not Alone

If you have concerns about your friend's mental or emotional health, tell her she doesn't have to deal with the bad times alone. Whether she is dealing with bereavement, divorce, betrayal, illness or unemployment, support groups can provide free, confidential support. Do a little research and compile a list of useful websites and telephone numbers. Avoid putting pressure on your friend to contact a support group, but tell her you have collected the information for her and will support whatever decision she makes.

What Not to Say

Avoid asking "What can I do for you?" You might think you are being helpful, but your friend may be too overcome with emotion to be able to give you an answer. Instead of giving your friend another difficult decision to make, simply get on with doing something that will make her life a little easier. If your friend is grieving the loss of a loved one, for example, going to the supermarket for her and stocking her fridge with healthy food will give her one less thing to worry about. Another no-no is any sort of cliche. If your friend has been left heartbroken by an ex, the last thing she wants to hear is, "There are plenty more fish in the sea" or "He wasn't good enough for you anyway." These overused phrases provide little comfort, says Hale.

About the Author

C. Giles is a writer with an MA (Hons) in English literature and a post-graduate diploma in law. Her work has been published in several publications, both online and offline, including "The Herald," "The Big Issue" and "Daily Record."

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