Q: I have a bestie who’s going through a really difficult time right now. I don’t have firsthand experience with what she’s dealing with, but it’s pretty traumatic and I want to help. Am I out of my depth?
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A: “Am I the right person to do this?” is a question I find that I ask myself when I’m not sure how to help someone who’s struggling with something serious. And that’s the wrong question. Because if you care enough to want to help your friend make it through this rough patch, then there’s no one more right for the job than you. You just have to work out what that job is.
Along with what the crisis actually is, think about your friend’s personality and how she deals with problems. Is she grieving the death of a relative? Did she receive some troubling health news? Did she survive an abusive relationship? You’ll want to set a game plan that’s appropriate to what she’s coping with. But here’s where you have the advantage: you know your friend. Maybe she’s the kind of person who just needs you to hold her hand while she thinks. Maybe she needs to scream and beat up on a pillow until she loses her voice. And if you’re not sure what it is that she needs: just ask.
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For young people in crisis, often the hardest part can be feeling alienated from their peers. Going through something life-changing can make you feel very separate from your “normal” life, especially if your own friends are afraid to be near you. So please remember that you don’t have to be perfect. Make sure that your friend is getting professional help from a doctor or a counselor. And then realize that you don’t have to step into either of those roles. Your role is just as important: to stay strong, be present, and be her friend.
If you need advice, ask your question in the comments, and it may be featured in an upcoming column.
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