We’ve all felt like the friend who couldn’t offer much help in tough times before. We witness our friend experiencing unbearable, challenging pain and we’re at a loss of what to do and how to do it. In some cases, their pain is familiar because we’ve personally felt it, too. In those situations where we can feel our pain intertwined with theirs, the feelings of being lost and powerless can be magnified.

Being a friend during tough times isn’t necessarily about your actions as it is about being. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complex. Most people just want to know that they’re thought of, supported through it, and that they will feel happiness again. Even if your friend isn’t in a space where they can communicate how you can help, you can still be a source of comfort throughout these hard times.

I constantly take into mind how I can be a better friend to my girls, especially when things get rough, and want to share some ways you can do so, too:

1. Be present.

Presence doesn’t just have one exact meaning in this situation. Maybe it means answering their calls when they need to talk. Maybe it means showing up at their house with their favorite snacks in hand. Maybe it means sending them a thoughtful care package.

It’s not as important to physically be there as it is to be mentally and emotionally present. You can even send them a quick, sweet message to let them know that you’re there whenever they want to reach out.

2. Ask what they need.

In most cases, if a big shock or event has happened, people probably cannot even think of what they need in that exact moment. While this can feel like a roadblock when you’re trying to help, it’s perfectly fine to take a step back and do what you can at the time.

When your friend is feeling like they can verbalize their needs, listen. Let them know if you can or cannot help. Even helping with their most minor needs will be meaningful for them.

If you’re doubtful, simply give them your love, encouragement, and space to heal. Sometimes a person just wants to know they have someone there for support.

3. Respect their boundaries.

It’s a common reaction to retreat and disconnect from the outside world during times of immense stress and pain. Don’t take personal offense to it if your friend is snubbing your calls, texts, or in-person visits.

If your friend is establishing a boundary, you should certainly respect it, even if you’re not truly onboard with it. By showing respect for their boundary, you’re forging a safe space for them to come back to when they have the capacity.

4. Lower your expectations.

Edit: Completely toss out your expectations. Now isn’t the time to offer your opinion or critique of what you think your friend should or shouldn’t be doing, saying, or feeling.

Expectations are rooted in entitlement. No matter how cool or close you are to someone, you are not entitled to their life’s path. They are not obligated to follow our advice, or to even let us in on what they’re going through.

Honoring this aspect will release you and your friend from the affliction that can stem from expectations. By not concerning yourself with what you think “should be,” you can embrace what is in the moment with simplicity and ease.

5. Don’t make everything about you.

If you’ve never had to take the backseat, give it a try now. Your friend most likely has a million and one things running through their mind and is probably being swallowed by life. Chances are that if you’re close to this friend, you will be impacted to some extent. But this is not the time for you to tell them all about how something was ten times harder for you. Trying to relate to their experience does not always equate to support.

The bottom line of this all is to say less and love more. Be the person you want someone to be for you in your times of need.