A few weeks ago, my sweet brother was laid to rest. It was unexpected and traumatic for our family and his friends. Burying a loved one is never easy, but the support I received from family and friends helped me through the grief. The messages and texts that I received throughout the process will be forever treasured. From the friends who texted me every day to my brother’s friends who shared special memories all made a huge difference in how I was able to manage my emotions. I have always treasured friendships, and now I have a deeper and more profound appreciation of how important connection is.

During the pandemic, many of us realized that the lack of connection was emotionally difficult, and yes, many people slipped into depression and anxiety. After restrictions were lifted, I, like most of us found great happiness and relief in being able to meet and resume the lifeline of human contact and connection.

Most of us know that connection is a stress reliever, but it has other implications as well. 

Were you aware that human connection decreases health risks and improves physical well-being and longevity? Studies also show that strong social connections strengthen our immune systems and increase our chances of a longer life by at least 50%.

Connection improves self-esteem, confidence, and mood. When we are facing difficulties and we can turn to others for support, it is much easier to manage than if we go it alone.

How can you be the friend that others see as a support system? 

1. Reach out! Don’t be reluctant. Many times what keeps us from reaching out is our discomfort with grief or adversity. If it is not a good time or your friend is not ready, they can tell you. A good friend confided to me that when a family member passed, friends avoided her and didn’t reach out. It hurt her terribly. Be mindful of YOUR discomfort and realize it’s normal, but don’t let that get in the way of reaching out to a friend in need. 

2. Listen, and listen more. It’s not about you. If a person is hurting, grieving, or suffering, they may want to ventilate or sit in silence. Again, many times it’s our anxiety or discomfort that may cause us to prattle on and on. That is not helpful.

3. Ask, “what can I do to help?” Rather than, “Call me if you need something,” say, “I will bring dinner Sunday night”. “I will pick up (child) for a play date or a sleepover if that’s convenient.” When my second son was born, an acquaintance, who is now a good friend reached out to ask if she could take my older son for a playdate. That simple gesture meant the world to me at that time, and I know I had a true friend. 

4. Text or message. This is a way of reaching out and telling your friend that you care, you understand, or that you’re simply thinking of them. Receiving messages and prayers from my friends and other family members while I was attending my brother’s services seriously meant the world to me. Grief can feel lonely.

It doesn’t have to be complicated to show support and love for your friends. It doesn’t even have to be a tragedy to offer your friendship. We feel sad, we feel lonely, and we feel misunderstood. It’s always nice to get a phone call or text asking how we are doing and to say we are thinking of them.

Who can you reach out to today?