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family and friends

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Seeing someone you love go through a difficult time is one of the worst things in the world. We all know that life isn’t easy but we can’t help but feel betrayed, angry and devastated when bad things happen to the people closest to us.

Watching your little sister go through a breakup or seeing your best friend come to terms with the loss of their parent is harrowing. We tell them we are there, no matter what, but how else can we help when the person we love so deeply is experiencing one of their darkest moments?

I wish we could just wave a magic wand and make all of the bad things disappear but we can’t, it’s harsh but being honest is the only way to be. However, all is not lost. There are little things you can do that can brighten those dark days, even if it’s just for a moment.

These little acts can bring a glimmer of happiness and hope into your loved one’s life.

1: Call them

People can struggle to ask for help, even when they’re going through difficult times, like a breakup or unemployment. Random phone calls can help them feel like they’re not entirely alone and that someone is always there to listen to their troubles. Reach out to them and show them you’re there. If they don’t want to talk then let the call ring out.

2: Flowers

Material things like flowers are not going to make their worries vanish, but they can help ease anxiety and pain. A recent study found that flowers should be 'complementary medicine' for recovering patients. 

3: Embrace The Bad Feelings

Crying can be good for the soul. Sometimes letting it all out can be the best thing for you. Remind your friend or family member that bottling it all in is no good. Let them cry on your shoulder when times are tough. 

4: Be There

The world can feel like the loneliest place when something bad happens to you. A lot of people tend to isolate themselves and avoid socialising during times like these, which is understandable, but it’s important to make sure they’re not shutting themselves out. Visit them in the evening and simply be there. You don’t have to do anything lavish or exciting. Sometimes just having someone to sit with can help.

5: Be Honest

Don’t sugarcoat the situation or make them feel like a victim. They’ll be inundated with the ‘hope you’re okay’ texts, which may not mean as much as a real message from their best friend or sister. Tell them you understand how horrible they feel and how that feeling isn’t going to change overnight, but they will start to feel better one day. 

6: Help at Home

Help them with tasks that need to be done like going to the supermarket, topping up the electricity meter, washing dishes, walking the dog and cooking dinner. There will be days when they don't want to get out of bed so having an extra set of hands around the house will be a true saviour.

7: Listen

It’s the most simple but helpful thing you can do. Sometimes all we need to do is vent and word vomit so be the person who will listen in their time of need. You don’t have to offer advice or solutions to their problems. All you have to do is let them pour their heart out.

8: Continue the Support

You can’t just flip a switch and move past the grief, heartache and turmoil. Losing a loved one, going through a serious illness, having your heart broken and all those other dreaded life experiences stay with us. It’s important to remember that people don’t just get over these things. They will shape them and change their lives forever. They may be smiling and laughing again but that doesn’t mean you have to stop supporting them. It’s important to remember that even those who seem as merry as ever can be hurting so check in often and be there always.

Obviously these things aren’t going to make all their fears, worries and heartache vanish. I’d sooner make the cancer vanish but we don’t have that power, but we do have the power of friendship and we must make the most of it during these devastating times.

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With just four weeks to go, Michael Ring TD, the Minister for Rural and Community Development is joining forces with Dancing With The Stars winner, Mairéad Ronan and calling on people to reach out to their neighbours as part of The Big Hello!, the first National Community Weekend which takes place this May Bank Holiday Weekend (May 4-6).

“The Big Hello!” supports communities to host events in their local area in order to strengthen community ties and help tackle the problem of social isolation.

Minister Ring said: “In a world where people are spending less time in their communities and more time at work, it is important to find new ways to connect people and focus on the importance of neighbours. In our busy lives we rarely make time for each other outside of our network of family, friends and social media contacts.”

In order to support these events, Minister Ring has allocated €10,000 to each of the 31 Local Authorities and asked them to allocate funding to The Big Hello! events in their areas. The target is for at least 1,000 local events to be held throughout Ireland.

Funding for events is available to residents’ committees and community and voluntary groups through their Local Authorities. Further details can be found here, and on The Big Hello! Facebook page.

Minister Ring continued: “Sadly, many people living among us are experiencing social isolation and loneliness. I firmly believe that this initiative can help people to connect or re-connect with their neighbours and communities.”

Mairéad Ronan said: “We all lead such incredibly busy lives nowadays; The Big Hello! is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with our neighbours by organising an event or attending one in our local communities. No matter how big or small, it’s up to you to decide with your neighbours what type of event you’d like to host in your area.”

The event is being organised by the Minister’s Department in partnership with representatives of Public Participation Networks, Local Community Development Companies, Volunteer Ireland, Young Social Innovators, Macra na Feirme, Street Feast, An tOireachtas and Change X.

It is intended to have at least one Irish language event in each Local Authority area.

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