I recently had a friend email me wanting to know how to help one of her friends who was traveling through post-partum depression.
This got me thinking.
What can someone do to help navigate this tricky place? I did a little brainstorming, and here is what I came up with.
If you are very close with this person, you can:
1. Take her on a walk -- Offer to go on a walk with her but remind her that you don't need to talk at all on this walk. I know that making small talk was sometimes very difficult for me. Knowing I didn't have to talk felt wonderful!
*2. Cook nutritious and hot meals -- Bring meals by her house and ask if you can get a group of women to contribute as well. If she doesn't feel comfortable having strangers or people she doesn't know well stop by her house, come up with a way to have a safe person drop the meals by.
*3. Provide pampering gifts -- Even if she doesn't use the gifts right now, your thoughts and kindness are incredibly valuable.
*4. Look after her baby now and then -- Ask if you can take the baby or possibly another child if she has one, out for the day. Keep in mind that for some women, total silence is too difficult for them so they may not want to be away from their child/ren.
5. Ask them, "What do you need right now?" -- And then do it. Does she need her bathroom cleaned? Does she need someone to watch a movie with her? Does she need someone to get some groceries for her? Whatever it is, do it.
6. Let her know you are there whenever she comes out of it -- I often feared that people would grow tired of how unavailable I was and give up on me. I feared that they would find new friends, and I would be all alone. Remind her, often, that even if she is unavailable right then, whenever she is feeling like herself again, you are waiting in the wings.
7. Remind them that they WILL feel better -- Many people have traveled this road ... even very famous people. This will pass. It is hormonally and situationally occurring.
8. Help them seek help if they need it -- If they need to see a doctor, offer to help make the call, babysit when they go, or go with them. There is no shame in medical intervention to battle depression.
If you are more of a "second tier" friend to a person traveling through this difficult road, consider talking to someone closer to them -- a husband or another closer friend -- to see how you can contribute. Numbers with a star by them are things that someone who isn't in the immediate circle might still be able to help with.
Remember that your friend might be emotionally unavailable to you for a time. This has NOTHING to do with you and EVERYTHING to do with them. Rest assured that once they are feeling better, your friend will return to you and your relationship will continue as it once did.