Erika was thrilled to stand up as a bridesmaid for her friend Kimberly. The blissful days of bridal showers, hand-crafting wedding favors and searching for the perfect gown passed by in a whirlwind of laughter and to-do lists – until the night she received the phone call that changed everything. Kimberly’s fiancé went down in a helicopter crash and instead of preparing for a wedding, they now had to plan a funeral.

Erika was shocked and somewhat intimidated by the severity of Kimberly’s loss. For the first time, she didn’t know what to say or do around her friend. Her first instinct was to pull away and let Kimberly’s parents or a professional deal with her pain, but she didn’t want to abandon her friend in a time of need because she couldn’t deal with an uncomfortable situation.

When Tragedy Hits

Romans 12:15 (NIV) tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” For most of us, the rejoicing comes easy in friendship. When life is good and we have much to celebrate, it’s easy to find people to spend time with. Unfortunately, the same is not true when circumstances leave us devastated and confused. Adversity is truly the real test of friendship. Will you stand by your friend’s side when life gets messy and real?

Will You Lean In Or Out?

Erika chose to move towards her friend despite her fears of doing it all wrong, so she texted and called Kimberly but received no reply. She then left a small gift with a note on her door. I recommended Erika take it one step further and just show up at her house offering the simple gift of her presence. Erika was uncertain, but she was willing to try. When Kimberly opened the door and saw her trembling friend standing there with a teddy bear and her favorite Starbucks drink, she fell into Erika’s arms weeping. The two quickly reconnected and were able to walk through the next few terrible weeks together. Kimberly confessed she had been afraid to reach out to Erika and be “too needy” in her overwhelming loss and she apologized for pushing away her friend. The truth was that Kimberly needed her friend more than ever.

Erika, by simply showing up day after day, took their friendship to a new and deeper level. Erika didn’t know the ins and outs of grief management, but she learned by going through this trauma with her friend how to give emotional support.

Being A Friend, Not A Fixer

Kimberly later told Erika the best gift she received through the entire ordeal was the goody bag and note Erika left on her doorstep. The bag was stuffed with chocolates, candy, biscuits, comforting tea and oils – everything Erika could think of (and afford) that her friend liked. Erika’s note was raw and funny and without platitudes, a huge relief to Kimberly. Erika offered her support and honesty about her own inadequacy with grief without trying to fix Kimberly’s pain.

Many of us are so uncomfortable with our own pain we give “fix it” statements instead of real support. Kimberly heard over and over, “You are young, you’ll find someone else,” when all she wanted to hear was an acknowledgement that her pain and grief were real and the loss significant.

Friends come and go, but the true keepers are the ones who stand the test of time and trials. Today, Erika and Kimberly are the best of friends. A few years later, Erika was Kimberly’s matron of honor when she walked down the aisle, this time with a happier ending. Although Kimberly dearly misses the man she lost, the friendship and intimacy she gained with Erika through this adversity was a priceless gift. Sometimes, the key to a deeper friendship requires stepping out in faith and courage. As Erika learned with Kimberly, the blessing they both received was worth pushing past the fear.

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