Lunchtime Poll

Lunchtime Poll: Supporting Friends

Within the close circle of people I love, there have been dozens (literally) of pretty life-altering, somewhat tragic circumstances happening lately. Deaths in the family, serious illnesses, financial catastrophes, long-term relationships breaking up, heartbreak left and right. The gods are cruel.

Anyway, I believe strongly in feeding grief. It’s how I was raised, and it’s how I know what to do when things go badly. But most of my close circle lives, geographically, scattered to the wind these days. From previous conversations here about friendship, I know that’s true for many of you. Which brings us to today’s Lunchtime Poll.

How do you support your friends’ grief when you are not able to be there physically for them? Do you send gift baskets? Flowers (as a good friend of mine did for me last week when I had my teeth drilled into)? Do you send a card, an email, make a phone call?

And maybe more importantly, do you ever get over the feeling that you’re a little helpless when you’re so far away from the person who’s struggling?

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

13 replies on “Lunchtime Poll: Supporting Friends”

When Chocolate Monster died, I had a group of friends from around the world who rallied and sent me a wonderful box of goodies (nail polish, jewellery, lollies, tea, a soft toy), and the most amazing messages of support and condolence. It was wonderful.


I send little care packages and cards/notes. I really only have a few close friends, but if I know one is going through something, I always send something pleasant. One of my best friends has been going through a lot recently, as her son is frequently ill, and they’ve spent a lot of time at the hospital. I sent him a gloworm (because they’re awesome) and her some magazines and comfy socks. I feel bad that I can’t help out in person, so I try to send things that provide the comfort and distraction I want to provide myself.

I believe in care packages and cards. If my bereaved friend is too far away to be able to visit, I also believe in calling, leaving messages and being clear that if they aren’t ready to talk about it, it’s okay. We can talk about the loss when they are ready, or not talk about it at all, if that’s how they’d prefer to process their grief. I think it’s important to make sure that the bereaved person knows that they are loved and cared for, and that if they need space, they are welcome to take it without it changing how much I care about them.

When one of my closest friends suddenly lost her best friend, she lived 4 hours away. A trip to see her would have been too difficult and she would have had to play host while suffering. All I could do was call and talk with her. But, I think it helped. We didn’t just talk about her friend but we talked about everything imaginable. Her plans and goals, future things to look forward to. We also planned a trip for me to see her in about 6 months time. It would be summer, she would be better able to have me over and just talking about what we would do was helpful – something fun to look forward to. I think I helped? I hope I did.

Also, taking the train is SO FUN! I totally recommend it.

As far as I can tell, feeling helpless doesn’t ever go away. I still hate it when my friends are hurting far away, and I know my dad still feels bad when I am hurting because he’s far away. I like to send presents, it helps me feel like I am doing Something at least, but, yeah, I am a big hugs and cry-able shoulder kind of person, so I hate not being able to be physically present.

I’m not a very effusive person, so I just try and let them know that I am available for venting in whatever long-distance format works for them (phone calls, IMs, emails, Skype/FaceTiming, whatever). Usually they get support from people close to them and then can confide in me about things that might be harder to discuss with the people who are there (who may be judgmental or non-supportive or whatever). Over the past few years I’ve been culling a lot of my friendships as they were too one-sided and draining, but the people who are my friends do know that, even if we haven’t spoken in years, they can always contact me when they need to.

Totally with the helplessness — it’s incredibly frustrating to not be able to just go sit with someone who’s having a rough go of it with a hot chocolate and a slice of cake and let them talk.  I don’t tend to send physical things, but I try and do the “sit down with hot chocolate and cake” thing as best I can over the internet, send some silly/cheerful/ridiculous things to make them crack a smile, and just…. show up electronically, I guess.

That feeling of helplessness doesn’t go away until I get to see them, be it weeks or months after it happened. If I can I go the day or week I get the bad news. If I can’t though, I am queen of phone calls and texts, checking in on the ones who need that, sending funny things to the people who just want to smile, or just listening to them cry. Whatever they need that I can give them is what I do. I can’t afford to send things, so the internet is my domain of gifts in the form of good websites on a favorite subject matter that they can hide in or ecards and eflowers so they know they aren’t alone. But I always wish I could do more…

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