Friends holding hands in support


When You Get ‘The Phone Call:’ 5 Ways To Help Look After A Friend Through Crisis

May 31, 2019

We’ve all had the experience of “the phone call:” the call, text or conversation with a friend that tells us they’re in crisis. Be it a family emergency, illness or great loss, we all know that pit-dropping feeling in your stomach of hearing bad news, and wanting to make it better for our friend.

After I announced my initial breast cancer diagnosis, and my decision to pursue four months of chemotherapy, I was flooded with offers to help me and my little family.

We all want to help our friends through challenging times, but how do we do so in a way that will be appreciated and not intrusive? There are only so many deli trays one woman can handle, and although flowers and a card are a lovely thinking-of-you gesture, they don’t really “do” anything to make our person’s life easier — which is ultimately the goal.

Reaching out to help makes us feel good and less powerless, so how do we offer the kind of help that is more useful to our friends in need, rather than the kind that just makes us feel like our own needs are being met? After all, while the gesture of food and flower drop-off is kind and well-intentioned, sometimes the management of “where are we going to put all this food?” and “here’s another dead bouquet we have to deal with” unintentionally becomes more hassle than helpful.

After I announced my initial breast cancer diagnosis, and my decision to pursue four months of chemotherapy, I was flooded with offers to help me and my little family. My friends, peers, colleagues and extended family were amazing in how they showed up, and in what they did to offer ongoing support. What I learned along the way is what we really need in times of challenge or upset, and how to ask for it in a way that makes life easier, not harder.

Here are five tried and true ways to comfort a friend in need that will make life easier — without them even having to ask.

Related Reading: How One Basic Meal Can Transform Into Many Weekly Meal Options — And Leftovers!


Our first instinct in times of need is to send food, right? Yes, everyone has to eat, and the gift of food is so welcome to take the stress out of feeding a family, especially with young kids. But the most helpful way you can contribute food is to think very clearly about who is receiving it. Items like takeout gift cards, individually wrapped and school-safe baked goods or after-school snacks, freezable small portions of comfort food that are kid friendly, smoothies that are portioned out and ready to be blended and frozen breakfasts will make life easier than had you just dropped off a casserole.


Even when it all hits the fan, life unfolds around us. Having the daily chores taken care of makes a huge difference in the function and flow of life. Beyond just laundry and groceries, household accounting still needs to happen, the yard needs to be attended to, the dog needs to be walked — these are all areas you can help with. Ask where you would best be able to serve and support, and follow through. So much of this comes down to showing up. Some of the most valuable help I received was the ongoing offer from friends simply to drive me to and from appointments and wait there with me.


When life as you knew it is in the rearview and your new reality is sneaking up beside you, there are a lot of unknowns. And it’s the unknowns that cause us the most fear, anxiety and sleepless nights. The thing is, when we go to dive into researching the unknowns to try and get a handle on what we can expect, our Google search can become even more terrifying and overwhelming. If you can handle it emotionally, take on this responsibility. Be the person your friend can rely on to do the leg work, filter it out and come back with the take-home message. I had one friend I relied on exclusively to figure out the risk and reward of the many options I had in front of me, and her loving straightforwardness supported me in making confident and informed decisions at every turn — without ever having to endure the feeling of “I can’t unlearn this.”

A Mom's Experience: I Have Cancer And I’m Dying And I’m Ready To Tell My Son

Group Gifting

Yes, a little goes a long way. But with financial support? A lot goes an even longer way. If you are feeling the desire to contribute, there are likely many others just like you who also want to do so in a meaningful way — rally them. Organize funds for something like a meal delivery service, reliable snow removal or cleaning service. You’d be amazed at the magic that can be bought if even a few people contribute a bit of cash. It takes one leader to pull this together, so lead.

Unsolicited Jokes And Memes

Don’t underestimate the simple joy found in the random funny (and usually really, really lame) joke texts. During crisis, it’s so serious so much of the time, and for the majority of people, levity and joy are very much appreciated. Every now and then out of the blue — don’t even ask how your friend is doing — just send a delightfully awful pun her way and brighten her mood instantly.

Article Author Leisse Wilcox
Leisse Wilcox

Leisse Wilcox works in influencer marketing and brand strategy, is a mama of three and wants to spend the rest of her life laughing and listening to Motown by the lake.

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