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How to Be There for Someone's Time of Need

Updated on August 8, 2012

It is inevitable that life will hit you or someone you know with difficult times. Financial stress. Divorce. Health problems. The death of a loved one. It is during these times when people need the comfort and support of those who care about them most. But too often, we don't know how to respond when someone is in need. I don't know what to say, we think. Or I wish there was something I could do. Truth is, there is always something you can say or do, and it is important that you act. Reaching out to someone else is an important part of the human experience--it will uplift the one you are helping and it will fulfill you in return. If you are someone who tends to shy away from such circumstances, it is never too late to learn how to reach out. Here are some helpful guidelines.

Helpful Guidelines on How to Reach Out

Don't Just Say, Do.

When someone you know is facing illness or hardship, you may say to yourself, "I should make dinner for him sometime" or "I've been meaning to stop by and see her" or "I need to send that family a card." Learn to take the next step and DO these things. After hearing this advice about following through on your thoughts years ago from a cancer patient, I now make it a point to act on my instincts. I send the card. I make the dinner. I make the call. Believe me, any action you take will be appreciated and remembered. The saying is "it's the thought that counts," but I like to remember that "actions speak louder than words." When you think of doing something for someone, don't let that thought go un-done. Actually do what you were thinking of. Once this starts to become a habit, it will be a natural part of your life, reaching out in one way or another, to another. It won't just be what you think about, it will be what you do.

Make the Effort

Having just lost my mom, the first family member I have ever lost, I know what it is like to be in need and to have others come through. My friends sent meals to my house because they knew I had to be by my mom's side at the hospital or at home. At her viewing, some of my brother's co-workers travelled over an hour just to pay their respects. That meant something. Actually, it meant a lot. I remember all those who called, sent cards, food, and flowers. I remember everyone who came to the viewing and to the funeral. Some who knew us well, and even some who didn't. The efforts of other people helped me get through the grief. On the flip side, I also think of those who failed to call or show up or say a word to me, to this day, about my mom's passing. It could be because they don't know what to say or do, but in their silence, I am left to feel an emptiness and a disappointment. Just a small amount of effort could make such a difference. Try to remember this the next time you know of someone in need.

What You Can Do

Often we say to others, "Let me know if there is anything I can do." But most of the time, they won't ask, or they don't even know what they need. Reaching out to someone can take many forms. It can be as simple as saying, "How are you doing?" in a sincere tone, and being a listening ear. Of course, you can always make a meal for someone, offer to take them out for a lunch or a coffee, or send them a gift certificate if you are worried they are being inundated with food. You can attend or donate to local benefits for those in need, volunteer to help, or even organize one yourself! You can help with a chore like cutting the grass, taking out the garbage, raking some leaves, getting the mail or the paper, or offering to drive someone somewhere. You can send flowers or just visit with someone for awhile. Think of, or observer for yourself, what someone needs, and follow through! It doesn't even have to cost a lot of money. You can bake cookies, bring flowers or vegetables from your garden, or send a .99 cent card. It is the thought that counts, but the thought needs to materialize in some form of action. Believe me, it will be so appreciated and it will not be forgotten. (Of course, these kindnesses can even be anonymous, if you'd rather.)

What You Can Say

Sometimes we are afraid to bring up a difficult subject for fear it will upset the person. You can always wait until you see the person alone, or send a card, e-mail or text to let your care and concern be known. In my experience, I have always appreciated when someone asked about my mom or offered their sympathy. It let me know that they cared. When someone fails to say anything, you may think they don't care, even if that's not true at all. Sometimes it's hard to find the right words. Of course, Hallmark does that for us, but you can never go wrong if you speak from the heart. A simple statement of, "Hey, I'm really sorry about__________. That has got to be so hard" is enough to let someone know you care. You can always follow that up with something personal and sincere, if you are comfortable enough to do so. Perhaps you also lost your job once, or faced financial stress. Maybe you have also been divorced and can let the other person know "you've been there." If someone has just lost a loved one, it is so nice for him or her to hear your kind words about that person, if you knew them or about them. I so appreciated all the wonderful things people said to me about my mom. It let me know that they cared about her, and about me. If you really feel stymied in this area, you can always research what to say in difficult circumstances in order to feel prepared. I've also included some hubs on this topic.

Resources at the Ready It's easier to follow through on these actions when you have resources ready. It is the age of e-mail and texting, but I try to also have "Thinking of You", "I'm Here for You", "Get Well Soon" and "Sympathy" cards on hand. I still say there is nothing like a hand-written card. (Likewise, I have "happy cards on hand, too! It is nice to remember others in joyous times as well.) Of course, you can always pick up a phone and call. I also have throw-away containers around if I want to deliver meals. I make myself aware of community benefits and see what I can do to lend some support. I try to read obituaries to know of arrangements and to learn about the deceased. It is nice to have something you can mention to the loved ones. "I didn't realize he was such an outdoorsman!" It's all about showing that you care.

Show that You Care

I make every effort to be there for loved ones, friends, acquaintances and community members--in good times and in bad. It is the thought that counts, but it's important to make that thought count. Reaching out can be as simple as saying, "I'm sorry for what you are going through." But it can take the form of a card, a meal, a coffee, or some of your time. Next time you think about someone going through a hard time, think of what you can do to make it a little easier for them, and then do it. It will make life their a little brighter, even in the darkest of times.



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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great tips for helping loved ones in their time of need.

    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      Well-put, innerspin! I never regret reaching out to someone, but always regret when I fail to do so. When we are on the receiving end, that is when we realize how much it means to have others be there for us.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      What a wise and important message you give here,g-girl11. It's so easy to look the other way. We think we may be intruding, we think we've missed the boat offering help because we've heard the news late, we think we may embarrass ourselves or the other person. Sometimes, you just have to make a move. Don't overthink, just do. Great hub, thanks.

    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      Absolutely, sradie. I wrote about that precise message in my hub "Expect Nothing, Get Much in Return." So many times we think of doing something for those in need, but we fail to act. I hope this encourages people to actually do something for others when they need it the most; even the smallest gesture can mean so much. Thanks for reading!

    • g-girl11 profile image

      g-girl11 5 years ago

      Wow that is a great compliment. I am honored. Thanks billybuc, and likewise.

    • sradie profile image

      sradie 5 years ago from Palm Coast FL

      When you reach out to help, place no expectation of anything in return. What comes will be a huge blessing anyway and without expectations, there is no disappointment. I would encourage everyone to reach out according to your message here. Blessings unfold before your eyes and in your heart a depth of love blooms that you may have never experienced before and surely cannot experience too often.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are a person I would be proud to know. Love your attitude and this is such an important message. Well done!