Dear Miriam,

A good friend of mine recently lost her mother. It was quite a shock and very sudden, as she had not been sick and she was only in her late 60s. They were very close.

I went to the removal and to the funeral to support my friend as best I could. I have sent her a few messages since then telling her that I am here for her if she needs anything at all, that she just has to ask. But even though I can see on WhatsApp that she has read the messages, sometimes she does not reply and if she does, it’s usually with a response like, “Thanks x”.

Maybe she just needs more space and time. I don’t want to force myself on her if she is still reeling from her mother’s sudden death. But at the same time I want to be a supportive friend and I hate to think of her suffering in silence.

What do you think I should do?

Áine, Cork

Dear Áine,

Thank you for your email. I’m very sorry to hear about the death of your friend’s mother. The loss of a loved one is never easy, but when you factor in that sudden, shock factor, it is even more challenging to accept.

It’s really great that you want to support your friend at this time. Instead of asking her if she needs anything, however, my advice would be to gently anticipate her needs and to respond in kind, as I think it’s difficult for a lot of people to ask for help, even when they need it most.

What do I mean by anticipating her needs? For me, it’s thinking about kind gestures that show you care, but still respect her need for space, if that’s what she wants right now. This could be as simple as writing a thoughtful card letting your friend know that you are thinking of her.

It could be something very practical, like dropping some dinners (or a voucher for a local deli/takeaway) to her door if you think that she might not be in the form for cooking at the moment. Or it could be treating her to something that you think might lift her spirits, be it a bunch of flowers or a little self-care bag that you could put together with treats like chocolate, a face mask, a body moisturiser, a pair of pyjamas, cosy socks etc.

The main thing is that you are “showing up” for her in a very real and tangible way. “Deeds, not words,” to borrow a phrase

You know your friend best, so you will know what will suit her needs. The main thing is that you are “showing up” for her in a very real and tangible way. “Deeds, not words,” to borrow a phrase.

Regarding meeting her face to face, my suggestion would be to offer her a more concrete plan. So instead of texting, “Would love to meet whenever suits you”, you could say something like, “I’m free every evening next week [or whatever is relevant to your own schedule] if you would like to meet for a cup of tea or a walk and a chat, but no pressure either.”

Again, I think this shows your friend that you are absolutely available for her, and that you are going to take care of the logistics, rather than pushing the responsibility back on her to set something up.

Hopefully, your friend will respond and you will meet her sooner than later. It might take her some more time, and in that case, I think just continuing to drop her a message on a weekly basis will keep that sense of connection there.

The important thing is that she knows that there are people who love and care for her and who are there for her, whenever she is ready to reach out for that support.

She is very lucky to have a friend like you. I hope this is of some help and I wish you the best of luck.

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