Being Present: Comforting a Sad Friend

How many times have you had someone come to you crying because of a death, a break-up, or even just a terrible day at work? If you’ve at least tried it once, you know very well how awkward it can be. They’re beside you bawling their eyes out and you’re just sitting there not knowing what to do or say at all.

Even though you want to show your empathy and let them know you’re there for them, it can be difficult to express in words. So, let’s just get straight into what you can say or do on times like these!

If it’s appropriate, offer physical affection.

If you’ve known the other person for a long time and you’ve been good friends, you can offer a hug or a literal “shoulder to cry on”. When it comes to physical affection really, the keyword here is “offer”. The other person should be the one to actually take the lead.

For example, if he/she is crying beside you and leaning on your shoulder, you can put a hand around them rather than just patting them on the back. Of course, if you’re not as close to this person, you can’t immediately go for a hug.

Know that your presence is sometimes enough

A lot of people admit that it’s hard for them to comfort someone because they don’t know what to say. Fortunately though, when people are going through something bad, they’re really not asking for any advice. They just want someone to be there with them, someone who understands what they’re going through. Just being there for them or saying something like “I’m sorry you’re hurting right now,” can be way better than giving unsolicited advice.

Don’t attempt to “minimize the pain” by cheering them up

If someone is sharing his/her problems and starts to cry, the usual reaction would be to stop them from doing so by making them laugh or smile. This will actually make them bottle up their emotions which is the opposite of what you want if you are to help them get over the situation faster. Someone who is sad or upset, most of the time, wants you to go on that melancholic journey with them. Remember, trying to cheer them up will only be a band-aid solution.

Give suggestions when…

If a person starts feeling better and asks you for advice, then you can make a suggestion. Again, only if they actually ask for your advice. Even then, your suggestions should still be largely based on the other person’s ideas. Ask them first about what they have in mind and give them a suggestion that will help them improve the situation slowly and step-by-step. Guide them towards making the decision instead of immediately suggesting a solution.

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