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To be there

Friendship: when you spend time with someone and you love it. Of course it is so much more; trust, laughter, bonding, fun, common hobbies, sharing feelings and so on. When you have a good friend, you feel you can tell them anything, your exciting plans but also your bad news. And you know you can rely on them, especially when you are having a hard time as they are 'your person'.

Lately, I have found myself sharing some bad news with friends about a planned surgery I need to have in a few days. I was explaining how I am in constant physical pain and my everyday life as well as mood is affected. It has been going on for a while, so I am having the surgery to be able to be healthy and active in the long run.

The usual response I get is 'it'll be fine' or 'you're strong, you'll be ok', among other similar statements. Really? How do you know? Is there a measurement for how strong one can be? Are you sure about this? I would love to hear how it will all be fine and what your contribution is going to be. Hmm, not so simple now, eh?

Not to overdramatise, but people have taken their own lives and left the rest of us wondering where it came from, as there were no signs. Or perhaps the signs were there but we either missed them or chose to ignore them, by saying 'it'll be fine' and 'you'll be ok'. You can never know what goes inside someone's head with certainty. So when your friend is going through a tough time, you have the brilliant opportunity to be there for them and show them you care.

When a friend is sharing a bad experience, is having a breakdown or wants to vent, there's a few things you can do to show you support them:

Listen. Allow them to voice their concerns and feelings, cry if they need to and vent by listening carefully and without speaking. They are pouring their hearts out, the least you can do is listen with empathy.

Keep it relatable. Avoid telling them about your cousin who was in the exact same situation - impossible, as it's a different person - because your friend needs the attention on them in that moment. Ask them how they feel and anything else that will make you understand clearer what they're going through.

Tell the truth. Even if your friend doesn't want to hear it, you have a duty to be objective and tell it like it is, but use kind words and a soft voice. You can always say 'it's temporary' to make them feel better but also because it's true.

Make yourself available. When the time is right, ask them how you can help and if there is something you can do for them. And mean it.

Keep in touch. Show active support by messaging or calling your friend after you have parted, to see how they are doing. Encourage them to meet up or schedule a call if it suits.

Remember, this person in need of a friend could be you. Empathy, kindness and patience are invaluable virtues to have as a friend. As they say, be the change you want to see.

In memory of my dear friends, Vangelis and Luis, that left too soon.


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