The most terrifying part of caring for a friend in crisis is knowing how to help.

We desperately want to do something to lessen their pain. We want to make sure they feel cared for and loved. But desire doesn’t always translate to practical help. Truth is we’re scared to death of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing. As a result, we either plow through like a bull in a china shop or we back off and do nothing at all. Neither works well.

I get it. In spite of my personal experience with crisis, I still find the task of helping someone else daunting. And, like you, the fear of doing the “wrong thing” can too often turn into “nothing.”

Thus the purpose of this post. I’ve been both caregiver and care-receiver. I know what it’s like to be a nurse in a hospital and the patient in the bed. Over the past few years, however, I’ve been the recipient far more than the giver. In the process, I’ve learned not only what works and what doesn’t, but how small things can make a big difference.

Today I’m giving you 60 Creative Ways to Help a Friend In Crisis. You may recognize some of these, because many of you were the giver of the gift during our family’s season of crisis {thank you}. It’s important to note that these won’t work for everyone. For example, there’s a good chance your 80-year-old father-in-law won’t want a mani-pedi. And your introverted co-worker won’t necessarily be thrilled with a three hour visit and shoulder rub.

Everyone is different. What I need in the middle of a crisis is likely different than what you need. And in spite of our good intentions, we might get it wrong. But I can tell you this:

Doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing at all. I’d rather have a gift I’ll never use than to feel completely alone while my world is falling apart.

Okay, enough talk. Let’s get down to business.

(NOTE: Want to print? Download the FREE PRINTABLE here)

60 Creative Ways to Care for a Friend in Crisis: 

  1. Ask “What do you need most right now?” The is the BEST place to begin.
  2. Send a brief text message. Let her know she’s not forgotten. 
  3. Make a phone call and leave an uplifting voice message.
  4. Send an email telling him what you appreciate most about him. Again, be brief. But be specific and sincere.
  5. SAY: “I love you, and I’m not going anywhere.”
  6. Set up a daily alarm/reminder to pray at a certain time. Then periodically let her know about it. 
  7. Mail a greeting card. Humor is almost always a welcome relief in suffering.
  8. Deliver a gift box filled with small necessities (lip balm, lotion, bookmarks, Starbucks Via coffee packets, chocolate, writing pens, Moleskines, lavender oil, did I mention chocolate?).
  9. Give a dinner or movie gift card.
  10. Give a book, with a personal inscription in the cover from you. CAUTION: Rather than gifting your book or a book you’d enjoy, do a little investigative work and find out what she likes to read. 
  11. Create a collection of your favorite hope-filled verses on index cards or a Word document (OR send her one of these).
  12. Give a picture of the two of you together. BONUS: print it off and frame it.
  13. Deliver flowers or a plant.
  14. Prepare and deliver a meal (OR, if they can get out, invite them to join your family, once a week or once a month. For those who grieve a long-time spouse, this can be the highlight of their week, and perhaps the only time they have connection with others)
  15. Buy him a subscription to a favorite magazine.
  16. Spend time together. Don’t look at your watch, don’t talk about all you have to get done that afternoon. Instead, offer your un-rushed self.
  17. Schedule a movie date. Bring the movie to them if they can’t leave the house.
  18. Schedule a coffee date. Bring the coffee to them if they can’t leave the house.
  19. Have your child write a letter or color a picture. Is there anything more uplifting than the joy and prayers of a child?
  20. Buy a soft blanket (even better if you knit it yourself or embroider a message on it from you.)
  21. Hand-write a letter.
  22. Make homemade bread, cookies or brownies. Know her favorite comfort food? Make that. 
  23. Give a gift certificate to get a mani/pedi, massage or other treat (or do it together!)
  24. Take a walk.
  25. Record and send a silly video message on your phone. 
  26. Take silly selfies and send those periodically, a fun reminder that she’s not forgotten. 
  27. Write up a list of what you appreciate about them, ways they make the world a better place. Be specific. Be honest. Be sincere.
  28. Find a t-shirt that carries some kind of positive message that will encourage.
  29. ASK: “What is your greatest pain right now?” And then sit quietly and listen. Resist the urge to share your personal pain or try to fix theirs.
  30. TWO WORDS: new pajamas. 
  31. Send a Giving Key. (www.thegivingkeys.com
  32. Go to the $5 movies at Target and buy the funniest ones you can find. Humor heals. Every time.
  33. Take them for a drive on a sunny day. No agenda. No map. Just a drive to enjoy the scenery. NOTE: Roll the windows down! Turn the music UP!
  34. Do his laundry for a week. Or a month. Sign them up for a laundry service if you don’t want to do it yourself.
  35. Make a painting together. Get a canvas, some paints and go crazy. It will be a memory you both won’t forget. And the painting itself will be a beautiful reminder of togetherness.
  36. Write and date your prayers for them. Then gift it to them. 
  37. Make a homemade journal, using an inexpensive spiral notebook and decorating the cover. Leave random, brief notes through the inside pages.
  38. Offer to drive them to doctor’s offices, legal appointments, etc. 
  39. Run errands together. If he/she can’t drive, this can be a huge practical help AND a salve for their loneliness.
  40. Sit at a local park and enjoy the sunshine.
  41. Keep her company on a bad day. You don’t need to talk or do anything. Just be close, as long as needed.
  42. Physical touch. Offer a hug, hold a hand, scratch a back, brush her hair. You might want to ask permission first, but you’d be surprised how desperate a person can become for simple human touch.
  43. Rent a movie and watch it in your PJs together. Zero glamour allowed.
  44. Ask for a list of things that need to be fixed around the house. Then put on your handyman hat and do whatever you can.
  45. Offer to make phone calls to doctors, insurance companies, etc. In the case of a grieving widow/widower, they may need help changing credit cards, canceling cell phone service, etc. Simply sitting with them while they make these tasks can be a huge comfort, too.
  46. Wash his car.
  47. Mow the lawn.
  48. Walk the dog. Maybe wash him, too.
  49. Keep their children for an evening. Or a week. Or find several friends to do it together.
  50. Clean their house. Or send them a gift certificate to Merry Maids.
  51. Listen to an audio book out loud together. Talk about it.
  52. Ask questions. Listen more than you talk.
  53. Adopt them as part of your family on the big holidays (Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas)
  54. Fix her hair or take her to get her hair done in a salon.
  55. Ask for his opinion on a project or specific subject. Show that his wisdom and insight still matter to you.
  56. Write down and reach out on the important “anniversary” dates. The date her spouse died. The date the surgery happened. The date the diagnosis came and chemo ended. Make sure she knows you won’t forget.
  57. ASK: What’s your greatest loss during this crisis? What do you miss the most?
  58. Get tickets to the symphony, comedy club, sporting event or local concert in the park. Get dressed up, go out and celebrate life.  
  59. Create a homemade yard sign with an encouraging message, and leave it for her to find when she wakes up the next day. 
  60. Do church together. If she can’t leave home, take your computer to her house and stream the Sunday sermon. Listen to it together. 

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Have other ideas? Leave them in the comments! 

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