How do I support a friend whose child is struggling?

When Charles was alive and not doing well, people didn’t mention him when I needed to talk the most. There were a few friends who would listen but for the most part, no one wanted to know. No one asked.

A friend of mine had a child struggling from a medical condition. Everyone asked her for updates, had fundraisers, sent cards, brought food, and kept in touch.

Parents with children struggling from mental illness or addiction don’t usually get that kind of support. Not that everyone is forthcoming about what’s happening in their families. Can you blame them?

Nothing makes us feel more helpless, defeated and more like a failure than that one of our children struggling and we can’t fix it. The fear they may not make it is every bit as scary as the kid with cancer. Yet we extend all kinds of support for parents of children suffering other diseases.

So how can you or your group of friends offer support?

Listening, for one. Being there. Asking about that child even if you know the news is not good and not offering advice unless you’ve been there.

There is such fear that they may be offended. Or you shouldn’t say anything. If you approach it purely empathetically, then it’s unlikely someone would be offended that you asked about the child.

This is the time we need our friends the most.


The day after I died

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my youngest son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

9 thoughts on “How do I support a friend whose child is struggling?”

  1. You nailed it again Anne! You have been a solid rock! Actually, we have been rocks for each other.

    The thing I love most about you is the nonjudgmental #girlcode. You always respond to me, as I try to do for you.

    Being a woman of this time, you really have to TRY and connect. You always do that well and it is appreciated by so many.

    I’m a friend. You are a friend. A good “take away” from this article is that women should stick together. No one knows better than another Moma’s heart.

  2. And I love the advice of being honest with your discomfort: “I’m a little unsure about this and hope you don’t mind my asking, but how is your son/daughter doing? How are you holding up?” It makes me sad that parents and families feel so isolated by addiction and mental health when support is most needed…

  3. I still think that those who dont understand or are experiencing this disease know what to say…many of my friends dont ask about our son..but I am ok with that because I have found a group of friends i know understand this roller coaster ride..cancer is ubiquitous but talked about..mental health/addiction are not..change occurring but slowly

  4. Although it is changing (slowly), I think people are uncomfortable and somewhat afraid of those suffering from any kind of mental illness. In my opinion, if they haven’t lived with it, they don’t understand it and it frightens them to witness rages and cops at our houses. Instead of educating themselves and their children, they avoid the topic. I find that the more comfortable I have become and the lack of shame and guilt on my part, friends, family and neighbors have been very kind and concerned. I believe that my role is educating others; and they have responded with care, concern and love.

    1. I am with you on that. As I became more comfortable, my friends did. To a point. I am not uncomfortable with things outside my comfort zone but that is not typical human nature. Most are. And I had to understand that. Right at the get go after Charles’ suicide, I decided how I was going to tell everyone straight out how he died and not worry about their reaction. And I don’t. I have found that they usually have a story. And then men 25-40 will just glaze right over it and change the subject as fast as they can. It’s all I can do not to laugh and say, “Typical!”

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