Clasped hands

Having a bad day yourself is bad enough. But when your friend, spouse, child, or someone else close to you is having a bad day, that can almost be harder.

Some days my husband feels great, but other days he gets up in significant pain. He rarely actually complains, but I can tell how much he’s struggling to do things at times. When I see him feeling bad it makes me feel bad also. I so wish there was something I could do to help.

Perhaps your friend was just turned down for the job, or found out her car will need major repairs. Perhaps your child was bullied at school, or your spouse spent the night at the hospital with her sick mother. How you try and help will, of course, depend somewhat on the seriousness of the problem, and on your relationship with the person who is hurting.

How can you help when someone is having a bad day? Your loved one will not appreciate it if you ignore them, pretend everything is OK, or get angry or upset yourself.

If Your Friend is Having a Bad Day

  1. Ask questions. Don’t assume you know what’s going on until you know what’s going on. You can say, “You seem to be having a difficult day. Could you tell me about it?” This is not meddling, but if you have a close relationship with someone, at least ask.
  2. Listen. Sometimes just knowing that someone else knows what you’re dealing with makes the load feel lighter. Different people may want to talk to a different degree, but really try to listen.
  3. Be there. The “ministry of presence” can be very powerful. Being around someone who is having a bad day can feel uncomfortable, but don’t run away. Unless asked to do otherwise, reassure them by just hanging around.
  4. Acknowledge the problem. To your child, that mean text message means the end of the world. To your husband, the loss of the contract means financial ruin. To your wife, her mother’s illness points to the eventual loss of her mother. You don’t have to buy into the catastrophizing, but acknowledge the seriousness of the problem your loved one is carrying.
  5. Adjust your expectations. That doesn’t mean accepting bad behavior from your friend or loved one, but the amount of energy, creativity, or activity they can put out may be less than normal.
  6. Don’t take things personally. Assume your loved one’s bad day is NOT about you unless you know differently. Understand their responses are not directed at you.
  7. Extend grace. Again, that doesn’t mean accepting bad behavior. But wouldn’t you want grace from them if the circumstances were reversed? Do the same for your friend or loved one now.
  8. Offer practical help. Offer to make dinner tonight, and follow through. Fold the laundry. Pick up some take-out and drop it off. Give them a ride. Offer something not to make YOU feel better, but something that will truly lighten their load.
  9. Don’t gossip. If your friend has confided in you, it’s because they trust you to keep their confidence. Your child or spouse will not trust you in the future if you share their “dirty laundry.” Only share with others if you have permission to do so.
  10. Encourage a distraction. Remember Elle’s friends in Legally Blond, dragging her out for a manicure? Take your friend for coffee, or your child for ice cream, and help them lighten up a little, if appropriate. Give your spouse a backrub, or more.
  11. Give a hug. Sometimes nothing can really make things OK. Words may be cheap. Put your arm around them, or grab them in a bear hug if appropriate. And don’t let go too quick.
  12. Help them see things in perspective. Help your child remember that there are friends who do care about him. Remind your spouse that God loves their parent even more than they do. Helping them see the big picture makes the present pain less burdensome.
  13. Help them help someone else. If appropriate, nothing raises one’s spirits more than helping someone else. For me, watching the grandchildren for a couple hours can erase any bad day! Take them by the hand, and go help someone else together.
  14. Take care of yourself. Yes, that’s right! You cannot help someone else if you are exhausted, anxious, and pre-occupied yourself. You can’t fix everything. Taking appropriate care of yourself will help you have the energy to give when you can.
  15. Pray for and with them. Sometimes the best thing you can do is bring your friend or loved one and their problems before God. Do it sensitively: don’t preach. But God is the ultimate Answer.

God made us to need each other. When your friend or loved one is having a bad day, don’t ignore it. See where you can help.

Remember, next time, it might be YOU who is having a bad day.

Your turn: What would you like someone to do for YOU when you are having a bad day? Have you found any other ways to help that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

P.S. You might also be interested in 18 Things To Do If You’re Having A Bad Day

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