For a such long time after campus, many of my friends moved back to their different hometowns. Others went on to get good jobs, get babies and even others started their own businesses. Because my university was located within my hometown, I did not move anywhere. I did not have a job, wasn’t getting married (though I almost did at some point 😅) and I didn’t have any business.
My friends and I grew distant because although we were friends, we were at different stages in our lives.
The worst part of it all was not being immediately there for a friend when they were going through a hard time. I could not just decide to take a 20-minute off my day and go to their house or even meet them over a meal.
During this pandemic, I have felt like I have been in the same situation, especially a huge chunk of last year. I have seen my friends and family less in this past year, and that, I believe, is a reality that I haven’t gone through alone.
Luckily, with a little creativity and a lot of communication, you can still make your friends feel supported and loved no matter how far away from each other you are.
Ask what you can do
The easiest way to help your friends when you can’t be there for them in person is to ask them, ‘how can I support you?’ When asked at first, most people don’t know how to answer that question. For many, it is the first time they have been asked. But when people come to you with things they are struggling with, it is very intimate.
I used to think this was insensitive, but I’ve come to understand that sometimes, even just asking the question can be a small way to show up for them and show your support.
Asking is a good place to start.
Use your phone
Calling, texting, and video calling are all really good ways to show your friends you’re there for them, even if you can’t be physically present.
Support your friends without asking too many questions in case they’re not in a place where they can do a deep dive into the ins and outs of what happened. Maybe there’s a funny story or wild memory that’s relevant to what’s going on or how they’re feeling that will make them smile.
Check in even when they aren’t asking for help
Let me just be honest, I am that friend who never asks for help. I feel like I don’t want to bug people with my problems. So, when I go silent, it may mean two things – I am not okay, or I am quite busy.
Checking in with your friends to see how they’re doing and letting them know that you’re there for them if they need you can be a game-changer if they’ve been struggling but didn’t want to reach out and ask for support.
It can be as simple as a quick text, but just making it clear that you’re there to uplift them and care about them can mean a lot.
Meet them where they are
People are tired, stressed, and burnt out. They’re trying new things, realizing they actually have different priorities than they may have thought and are just trying to make it through the day. One of the best ways you can be there for your friends right now is to make it clear that however they’re feeling, it’s okay.
To be honest, we are all just doing the best we can.
You might be coping really well, but they might be struggling with something. You can have your feelings while still allowing them to feel theirs. Offer to just listen while they vent without jumping in with suggestions on how to make things better. Sometimes, that’s really what someone needs most.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself first
It’s only natural that you want to be there for your friends when they’re going through a hard time, but you first have to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself.
It is okay to just be compassionate, but don’t take on other people’s problems. When you think of asking how you can be of support to your friends, make sure you are doing it from a place of being ready to show up for them.
Being there for yourself means that you’ll be able to show up and be there for your friend more effectively, even if you have to do so from afar.