What do you do for someone who’s going through adversity?

The best thing is to mirror their needs and don’t assume that what they want is what everyone wants.

When a friend or family member suffers a loss, we as humans – not knowing what to do for them – jump into certain traditions.

The Traditions

These traditions tend to include this scenario:

Something tragic has happened, so I’m going to run over to their house and tell everyone else to run over to their house and sit with them and cry with them.

And don’t forget to bring casseroles.


It’s also traditional to bring loads of food. Many meal trains are set up in times of grieving.

When I lost my husband Ross, I remember so many families wanting to bring us food, that at some point I just had to politely say, “We love you and appreciate the thought, but I’m going to end up throwing some of this out.”

We, as caring humans, default to these traditions because we just don’t know what else to do.

Mirroring Needs

Don’t get me wrong, all of these gestures are completely loving and kind.

But it’s important to note that we should be taking a moment to stop and really think, what does THIS individual need? Not what is traditional or what I would want, but what is it that THEY want?

It’s likely that something you wouldn’t think is helpful might be exactly what they need at that time.


I was traveling a lot when Ross passed. I had a place in Colorado, my son Cole was in Arizona, and my daughter Laurel was in college in Oklahoma. I also had a dog. What I truly needed were rides to the airport and someone to take care of my pup.

When I had people step in to help me with those things, that was monumental for me. They were way more important and helpful than food and hugs.

I also really needed people to allow us space.

So many people think you need someone with you at all times, but that’s not always the case. It certainly wasn’t for me. I just needed time and distance to internalize and figure things out for myself. The therapy environment was not what I needed.

What You Should Do

When someone close to you loses someone close to them or goes through some other sort of adversity, remember this: even if you feel like you want to step in and give them a big hug and get them to open up, it’s not about what you think they need. You have to mirror what they want.

One statement people say a lot when they want to help is let me know if you need anything.

But that can be a difficult question to answer and they may not let you know. Instead, try asking this: what is one thing I can do right now to help you?

Another thing you can do is talk about lost loved ones with those who are grieving. I’ve found that people often wait for me to bring things up. But I truly love it when people are not afraid to talk about my husband and my son. It makes me so happy when we’re sharing funny stories and those who were close to them join in.

The biggest takeaway here is to remember that what you might think is a need for someone going through adversity may not be what they need at all. And when you’re in doubt, ask!

For more information about my book, Keep Looking Up, click here.

Vision is Victory,
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