60 Creative Ways to Help a Friend in Crisis

May 17, 2016

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. 


Have other ideas? Leave them in the comments! 


  1. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    So many great ideas here Michele. Lately I have wanted to be much more involved in the “giving” end of recovery and these ideas are so helpful! It is so important to “just do something.” I have a memory from the lat 1970’s. My father had committed suicide and my best friend didn’t call me. I finally had to courage to ask her why. She said, “I didn’t know what to say.” I forgave her, and she is still my best friend to this day, but it taught me a big lesson. Say something. Do something. Be there.

    • Michele Cushatt

      I love that you had the courage to ask, and she had the courage to answer. Sometimes all we need to strengthen a relationship and grow as individuals is a good ole fashioned dialogue. 🙂 A great lesson, Linda. I’m so glad you shared it!

  2. Brad

    THIS…is gold.
    Thanks Michele!

  3. Wayne Stiles

    Good grief, Michele, I bet you got these ideas from the outpouring of love that’s come your way this past year! I can only see a couple I’ve done for you though. Thanks for the ideas. 🙂 Thanks also for your generosity.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Yes! I’ve been the recipient of tremendous grace.

  4. Crystal S. Hornback

    This is AWESOME, Michelle! What a perfect, brilliant list. Thank you!

  5. Loretta Heiser

    Once heard and have used the Question :”Name 3 things I can do in the next week”

  6. Roy

    Michele: This is a powerful set of ideas that overcomes the too typical noncommittal line “If you need anything call me.”

    My wife and I have loved Barbara Glanz book, “What Can I Do” when someone dies.

    If you have it in you, I think you should solicit and compile stories and examples and write a book under this blog title.

    I can imagine the list answering “What’s your greatest loss during this crisis? What do you miss the most?”

    Brilliant collection!!


  7. Michelle Pena

    Michele, I am so thankful I heard your testimony on Christian radio while driving home one night. Your ability to provide such profound insight to so many is truly God’s grace at work. You are light & salt in an often dark & tasteless world. I thank God for you, your courage, strength and faithfulness! May God continue to richly bless you, your beautiful family, and massive circle of faithful friends & supporters.

  8. Angela Howard

    I love this! So practical and a keeper. I pinned so I would remember to reference these wonderful ideas. Thank you!

  9. Erin Mount

    Thank you so much for this. What a great resource!

  10. Lily

    LOVE this list!!! It is so helpful to know what was most helpful or encouraging for you. As a ‘helper’ it’s hard to feel that you cannot relief someone’s pain or make it go away, but it’s great to know how little acts of kindness can make a big difference. And I love the idea of the printable!!

  11. Darlene D Self

    After my husband died as a result of brain cancer at age 47, a dear friend brought disposable paper goods to my home to ease the burden of serving all of that food that came through the door to all of the people who came from out of town for the funeral. So helpful and thoughtful!

  12. Sharon Spano

    Thanks, Michele. What an awesome list. My friend and I were just talking about this very thing as we have both lost children. I’m reading a book right now on loss, and the author’s comments are freaking me out in that everything anyone seems to do for her seems unsettling. I guess I’ve never really thought about it to this length, and your list helps me see what I’ve done “right” as well as what I could have done better or where I missed it all together.

    My next book is going to be a memoir about my last journey with our son Michael. You’ve added another dimension to the teaching/thoughts I want to include. I know that people always do the best they can in these situations and everyone requires something differently. I guess the point is well taken that we want to focus less on what’s best for us and more on what will serve the person in need, but it’s not always easy to know what that is. Thanks for shedding much needed light on a difficult topic.

    As for me, what I need most right now after almost seven years is to be able to share the great memories we have of Michael. I find that most people are uncomfortable with that and so they will often shut down and just stare at me. We have a lot of people in our lives now we never knew Michael. I want him to be known and remembered for the joy he was. Once my husband and I are gone, his memory will be lost forever. I’d love people to just allow me the space to tell a story, as I am a storyteller, after all, and to feel free to ask questions if they need to. Just another perspective.

    Thanks again for your courage and wisdom. Be blessed.

  13. Jenny

    Like we haven’t Already done AND thought of All of these things..Common now

    • Skeptical

      *come on

      I find it hard to believe you’ve done ALL those kind things and yet make the effort to leave an unkind remark.

  14. Kara

    I really love this post, thanks for sharing. I’ve recently experienced an out pouring of support as I was grieving emotionally and recovering physically from a late miscarriage of my 4th child. Several of my friends went in together and brought over new pajamas, dinner, a soft blanket, a beautiful orchid and a note of love and support. It was amazing how these things made me feel so loved and supported. Especially the blanket, I literally wrapped myself up in their love.

  15. Brenda

    I love this. I too have been on both sides of the aisle. (I think that’s a sign of getting older!)…..anywhoo… all great ideas, and such a great reminder that “we can always do something!”.. And may I suggest, Michelle, that many of these ideas work for many kinds of a crisis, not just a health or death crisis…..Blessings on your day!

  16. Noelene Curry

    Thank you so much for sharing these suggestions for caring – they are so helpful and encouraging.
    There are quite a few that I had never thought of!

  17. Vera

    What an awesome article. My fav was #30!
    Love reading here and taking away some great ideas. Thank you!

  18. lm

    If the crisis is due to financial issues, send tgem a gift card they can use for anything including paying bills.

  19. Vivian Overton

    Thank you so much for this post! Beautiful ideas. I searched for “ways to help a friend who is hurting” and I found your site. God is good!



  1. Fellowship Finds // Treasures from Life & Online // 6 - […] creative ways to love a friend in crisis. Grateful Michele complied this beautiful list — so many loving ways…

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