5 Ways to Truly Help A Friend (Instead of Saying “Let Me Know How I Can Help”)

We’ve all said it and we’ve meant it. When someone gets unbearable news, we wholeheartedly repeat this phrase, “Let me know how I can help.” But, how often do we get an honest answer? Here’s the thing, people who carry heavy burdens or endure big life transitions seldom have capacity to reach out and ask for help. 

So, instead of leaving the initiative with the person who is hurting, take it back! Here are five ways to truly help a friend in her time of need.

1. Drop Off Dinner

Here in the south, food is a love language. In my faith community, we set up meal trains when there’s a new baby, a foster care placement, illness, surgery, or the loss of a loved one.

They are simple to set up. One person close to the situation can facilitate a meal train with the pertinent information such as dates and time, and if the recipients have food allergies. Here is a great app for sharing info and automating sign ups.

The phrase comfort food exists for a reason. When we drop off a meal, we nurture the person in need and take the chore of cooking off their plate, which is a tangible way to carry the load. Feeding the body is a definitive way to fill the soul.

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2. Send a Meal

I’m going to be honest. I don’t love cooking and, sometimes, delivering a meal isn’t feasible with a busy schedule or when someone lives far away. The easiest way to help someone is to purchase a GrubHub or DoorDash gift card. In less than five minutes, you can purchase a gift card for any amount and have it delivered to their email address for them to use anytime on whatever they want.

A woman mops the kitchen.

3. Do the Grunt Work

From the easiest way to help someone, here’s the hardest way. Do the grunt work. Whether showing up to clean the house or sitting in the hospital room, show up in the trenches.

When my friend was going through breast cancer treatment, her husband organized a sign up for friends to sit with her during chemo treatments. That schedule was quickly filled up by friends who wanted to help but didn’t know how.

Doing the nitty gritty sometimes requires you to be the bossy friend. A few weeks ago, my friends called and asked what day that week would be best for them to come. They insisted that a task list be ready upon their arrival. They took down all my Christmas decor, put it away, and even vacuumed where the tree had been. 

>> LISTEN :: Settling Into the Sandwich Generation :: Momfessions Podcast <<

4. Remember Snail Mail

Who doesn’t love getting something in the mailbox that’s not a bill? Keep cards and stationary on hand and take the time to write and send a personal note in the mail. Do this regularly during your friend’s time of crisis and for a while afterwards, too.

Immediately after a death, there’s a bustle of activity during the fog of shock. A thoughtful card from time to time for months afterward is an incredible help, and even better if you mark your calendar to send monthly through the first anniversary. 

A gift basket is filled with personal care items.

5. Make a Care Package

A care package of favorite snacks, candy, and self-care items like bubble bath, herbal teas, and body lotions is a thoughtful way to show support.

After the loss of miscarriage, I received a delivery of flowers from a friend. It made me feel my grief was real and my loss was seen. Purchasing a tree to plant, jewelry, or a Christmas ornament is another way to honor a loss or trial. 

<< RELATED READ :: Infant and Pregnancy Loss Resources in Fort Worth Area >>

Even though we sincerely mean it, let’s simply quit saying, “Let me know how I can help.” Instead, let’s help a friend by taking the initiative, and not putting the impetus on him or her while in a hard place. Put together snacks for the hospital room, show up with dinner, set up a meal train, or give your coziest blanket to someone going through medical treatments.

Be the friend who shows up. Someday, you’ll need to have that kind of friend yourself.

Heather has called the Fort Worth area home since 1995, after growing up as an Army brat and preacher's kid. She's married to her college sweetheart, Chris (Sic' Em Bears!). Their kids include Collin (1999) and his wife Elizabeth (1999), Cooper (2001), and Caris (2004). Heather is the co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization, The Adoptee Collective, which offers lifetime adoptee support and post adoption resources, as well as pre-adoption education. Heather is also a TBRI® Practitioner. Heather has authored and published multiple books and she finds joy in using her gifts, time, and energy toward her life goal to finish empty.


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