Life throws curveballs, and as a military spouse, there are always a few. Standing in the messy middle with a struggling friend can feel awkward and complicated. Here are five tips on how to show up in a time of need as a friend.
Allow people space to navigate their hardships and remember everyone heals differently. If they take a few days or a week to respond, giving grace can release the tension they feel about how they ‘should’ show up while struggling. Check in, offer reminders, and be understanding if the plan changes at the last minute. Christin, a civilian, shares, “Being present after I feel better without holding grudges for the time I disappeared means the world.”
Sometimes people retreat or aren’t sure they are good company when going through a traumatic situation. When inviting your hurting friend, instead of saying, “If you want to come out, you are welcome!” use the phrase “We would love to have you if you can make it.” The latter phrase feels more inviting and lets them know they are not a burden.
Understand they may show up late, leave early or say, “Not this time, but maybe later.” Being remembered and invited can remind someone they are still wanted and loved just as they are.
Sarah, a spouse shares,” One of the things I find pretty disappointing is when people say, ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.’ Offering specific things is much more helpful, in my opinion, and reveals you are invested in caring; it means you took time to think about the situation, what is doable for you, and what would be appreciated by me.”
Specific help can look like cleaning a kitchen, offering to babysit, bringing over food, helping to drive to appointments, or even doing a load of laundry. When prepping for a move, Ali, an Air Force spouse, had a friend sit with her as she cleaned and organized her office. What would have been a trudge of an effort became light-hearted with the presence of a kind friend.
Words carry power, and it’s easy to be dismissive when trying to be helpful. Phrases like “At least it’s not…” or “Everything happens for a reason” might feel like you are trying to find the bright side, but these phrases prioritize your comfort over the grief and struggle of the person you are trying to help. Try to empathize; a listening ear can mean the world by simply being in the room together, without trying to say the right thing.
Michaela, an Air Force Spouse, appreciates being asked questions. “One of the best things is a sincere check-in. ‘I’ve been thinking about you, how are things?’ or even better is ‘How is the specific thing?'” If you aren’t sure what to say after a friend shares their hurt, you can ask if they’d like to vent, want a distraction, encouragement, or help to figure out the next steps. Asking in this way enables you to give them what would be the most supportive at the moment.
It can be hard to know how to show up for your military spouse friend going through a rough patch, but you can be there for those struggling by offering love, a note in the mail, encouragement, snacks, or even your presence. Trust your intuition if you feel led to reach out. It doesn’t take much, and although you might say the wrong words, or feel awkward, showing up in any way can go far for a friend in need.
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