One of my best friends has been going through a tough time for a while now. A combination of relationship issues, anxiety and depression, and being a very young stay-at-home-mother to two preschoolers in a new city.
She also happens to live over 200 miles away.
So, Homies: how can I be a good, supportive long-distance friend at a time like this, when popping in to help for an evening isn’t possible?
What can I do? -A concerned friend
First our Assistant Editor and Copyeditor Caroline has some advice, then we’re kicking it over to you Homies for suggestions…
A dear friend of mine was all set to get married after getting engaged earlier this year, but recently ended the relationship and called off... Read more
My best friend lives over 3000 miles away from me on the other side of the country. She was having a really shitty week, and it sucked not being around to take her out for a drink or bring her a snack or just generally be there in any way other than texts and IMs.
I considered sending a bouquet of flowers, but I didn’t feel like it would really fit. So I went to work to find a more apt alternative to cheer her up. I settled on baked goods, and I sent her a batch of cookies with that note you see up there.
What are you favorite options if you want to send some love to a faraway friend?
Comments on How can I support my long distance best friend?
Send flowers, send food, send a handwritten note or just a card. Sometimes knowing that someone is thinking about you is enough.
Send text messages to check in often – keep them low pressure and don’t demand a response. Call and tell her it’s ok if she doesn’t want to or can’t chat at the moment but that you wanted her to hear a friendly voice.
And if all that fails – Skype her after the kids have gone to bed and drink together even when you’re apart.
I like to mail my faraway friend the books I’ve finished with that I think she’ll enjoy – especially the ones that made me laugh out loud. It lets her know I’m thinking of her, gives her something to do and gives us something new to share our thoughts about when we get a chance to talk or visit. She has told me that getting unexpected parcels in the mail makes her feel like a kid at Christmas, and that’s a good feeling to propagate whenever possible.
100% this! I’m sending one of these tomorrow to a friend on the other side of the country, planning ones for my sister (moving to teach in a remote community after graduation), and a birthday/Christmas one for another crosscountry friend. Fuzzy warm feelings all ’round.
Since it is 200 miles that is a good distance to go visit overnight or for the weekend. It sounds like she has her hands full, so if you do visit make sure to tell her that you don’t need to be entertained and wined and dined – takeout and a movie night to just relax and chat would be great. You could also try to meet her halfway for a day of shopping and lunch if there is a suitable place halfway. Kids are portable. Sending the cookies suggested is a good idea, as well as cards or notes as another commenter mentioned. Make sure to work to keep in touch in the best way you can and let her know you are there for her.
Agreeing with the above poster about sending low-pressure, no-response-needed texts on a frequent basis. My long-distance best friend did that for me once when she knew I had a really stressful work day ahead of me. She texted me silly poems and stories all day and it really kept my spirits up.
I also love watching a TV show or movie together long-distance and texting your reactions to each other. Maybe that doesn’t work as well if you’re in drastically different time zones, but Netflix could be helpful in those situations!
Great point about not needing anything back – last thing she needs is self-imposed guilt for not being responsive! Hopefully, if the relationship is balanced (which they frequently aren’t), she will return the support when she is back on her game.
This is something I try to do with my faraway friends. Just a little text is a pleasant surprise.
My friend and I exchange pictures of our pets frequently, sometimes including our pics of ourselves. It’s a nice way to touch base if you just don’t know what to say or want to just let the other person know you’re thinking about them.
Yes, this too! My sister and I are very close but don’t live near each other. Probably the number one way we communicate is by sharing pictures of our fur babies.
I agree with this. Snapchat has been really influential in how my best friend and I interact. We sometimes go weeks at a time without textual communication, but we don’t go more than two days without sending a silly Snap to each other. It lightens the day for one of us, even when we don’t feel capable of sharing details of the shit day or week we’ve been having.
My friends and I have joined social apps together. For my friends who read a lot, we all use Goodreads and comment frequently on eachother’s reading progress. For another friend who was losing weight for her wedding, I joined LoseIt! and we can complete fitness challenges together (or in teams). Other people like Draw Something because you can share inside jokes through pictures.
CALL HER. Like, all the time. Nothing helps break the monotony of having 2 young kids than an adult conversation. Being “there” for her in this way is invaluable. Even if you are narrating the creepy people at the bus stop or rehashing the grouchy grocery store lady. Anything to remind her that there is still adult stuff going on.
And at the same time, don’t get frustrated by phone tag. Sometimes as a parent, you would LOVE to sit and talk, but if you’re the only parent home, you can’t always have a phone conversation–and the time that works for you isn’t always predictable. This is why texts (as mentioned by other posters above) are fantastic–they’re usually shorter and lower-pressure to respond, so they can be handled when you actually have a second.
My BFF and I live 7 hours apart so we don’t see each other often. But we text almost daily, play WoW together, and will randomly send each other packages/cards.
Care packages are fun. Go themed if you must! Rainbow themed, holiday themed, movie themed, inside joke themed! Care packages were made for shopping at the dollar store (or the dollar section at target) and they have the added bonus of being able to send along stuff for the kids too! Send a ‘mom only’ care package inside the care package. Maybe a bottle of wine or some bubble bath and a scented candle. If you’re too busy to build your own ‘stuff of the month’ clubs work too. That way she gets a treat each month which most places let you personalize with a note and you don’t have to take time to shop and send. All of this of course balanced with good and happy communication and patience.
I send my friend in Canada letters from the UK. We don’t do it often but every once in a while, we write long handwritten letters and send little mementos like hand crafted cards, real photos, and USBs with comedy. I like signing off with a real lipstick kiss because that somehow feels more tangible than an “x”.
Yeah, letters are great! When I moved abroad, I also sent postcards home regularly – tourist stuff from my new and awesome city, art motifs from the local museums, cheesy poetry postcards etc. – just as a quick reminder “I’m thinking of you, y’know” … My best friend was in the hospital at the same time and she really liked getting a new postcard every couple of days to cheer her up while she was struggling, when I couldn’t visit or phone her because of money and hospital regulations reasons and long letters were out of the question because I couldn’t make the time and she was too ill and exhausted to read a lot.
Last year I spent 7 week sin the hospital on strict bedrest. My best friend, who lived 8 hours away, would send me daily ridiculous text messages. Nothing was to random or ridiculous. Picture of a baby pig in red rain boots, a hilarious pick-up line she had recently received, etc. It would make me laugh incredibly hard and it also felt really nice to know that my friend was thinking about me throughout the day.
Also, car packages. Another friend would send me weekly care packages of things she found that made her think of me. One package consisted of a mixed CD (titled “Dance Your Pants Off- but not until you get off bed rest”) another package was vegan muffins and adult themed coloring books and Mad Libs. Really, anything that is special between the two of you would work.
If you have the money to spend a Groupon for a few hours of house cleaning or a message is always good. And might help take some of the pressure off your friend. Their pricey so may not work for everyone
Some really good suggestions. I really like the ones that don’t require mailing anything because my best friend is in an identical situation but lives in Kuwait (I’m in the US) and mail takes literally 4 months to reach her. Thanks for the tips!
My two best friends are both about 3 1/2 hours away, so this is something I struggle with. We’ve imposed “mandatory weekly check-ins,” since we all tend to shut down and go under the radar when we’re really stressed. Emailing is the easiest, since we have drastically different schedules and rarely have free time that lines up even to text. I can respond while nursing at 3AM, and E can respond during her break and work, and A can respond while she’s walking home from an appointment. We’ve been trying to get a digital book group going for a while, but that mostly turned into a fabulous chain of elaborate descriptions of the garbage reasons we haven’t been able to read: TOTALLY worth it!
whatsapp or other IMservices keep things relevant and present. ive never been a skyper. awkward i guess? encourage her to blog. and to post photos/thoughts to the blog. its difficult to know what to say every day cos sometimes nothing new or intresting has happened. the blog helps highlight the fun stuff and she/you can skip the mundane days. 🙂
WhatsApp is great. My husband and I use this while we’re at school. For some reason we get ZERO cell reception in our respective buildings, but luckily there is wifi. The app alerts your phone just like a text would, and you can send photos or short voice messages along with texts.
My best friend lives away too and I’ve been trying to be good about sending her handwritten notes, sometimes with little drawings. Texts are always nice and low-key, and we like to post Youtube videos of our favorite music we’re currently listening to. Making mix cds is nice, and watching some of the same shows around the same time so we can chat about it is fun. Presents are fun too and I just made her a bookmark (she’s a big reader) themed from the last book she bought me. I’m actually just about to write her a funny Halloween card… I know it’s November 10th but I got busy 😉
Use those buy one/get one free coupons in magazines to subscribe to a few of the same ones that interest you both – then you can read and share them together and you both get a little pick me up in the mail every month. Send texts that are inside jokes, fun photos, etc instead of the same old “how are you.”
If you can, send something to distract the kids like a dvd or age appropriate toys. It might buy her an hour of time where she’s not having to think of the activities
My best mate lives 2000 k’s away. The best advice I can give is talk, talk, talk. That’s what we did when she was going through a relationship breakdown and now she is doing that for me. And we also went to visit each other. We kept an eye out for cheap flights and grabbed them as soon as they appeared. Even if we could only afford to hang at each others houses.
My cousins and I are spread across the country but we’re pretty close. My sister has proposed we start making and sending each other YouTube videos of anything. I’ve done a video tour of my nursing school and shared cute videos of my son, my sister made a silly video proposing the idea and one of the cousins sent us video of her dance rehearsal. It’s low pressure but allows us to stay connected and share in each other’s lives.
Wow, this is so close to my situation earlier this year– except instead of young kidlets, my friend was dealing with a divorce. Lots of fun.
We live about 175 miles apart, so while I could go down to visit pretty regularly (twice a month at the peak, I think), it certainly wasn’t an easy thing to do, and didn’t happen nearly as frequently as we would have liked. Instead, I sent care packages. I got it down to an art, so they always arrived on the same day of the week and she always had something to look forward to. Some of the care packages were Big and Impressive, others were just small and “thinking of you” type. They referenced inside jokes, comments she had made in conversation, and things I just felt like she needed. The care packages were fun (for both of us), but I think the most fun was the cards. I found lots of great ones, particularly at Paper Source.
When I was having a crappy time a few years ago I started getting envelopes in the mail that were full of handcrafted things, nothing else, no letter, no identifying mark, just love put into creating something for me. One week it was little felted stars, another week it was paper flowers. I can’t remember all of the things that I received. They continued arriving for about 3 months, by which time I was feeling much better. They didn’t arrive on any schedule, I can only assume they were sent when a simple gift had been conceived and created. The irregularity of them made them all the more intriguing. I never found out who sent them, but I am ever so grateful to whoever did, they made a hard time much better. I still have all the envelopes in my craft drawer and every time I open them they make me smile because they make me feel loved.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to say who it’s from to help. An anonymous gift can sometimes be the perfect thing to send. The person who sent the gifts to me obviously knew me well as they started and stopped at exactly the right time. The fact that, years later, I still don’t know who they were from does not detract from the help they gave or the joy they continue to give, in fact I think it make them stronger.
I love this idea!
My best friend is 500 miles and a border away.
We are CONSTANTLY chatting on facebook messenger (because Telus is a shitbag and started charging for international texting). We skype whenever we’re both around and free.
I also make it a point to show her that I support her in her business ventures. Mailing can be tricky, since CanadaPost is evil sometimes and one of us is in the States.
I’m not sure of your age, and this may be a generational thing, but making sure we just keep up on the text communication has been keeping us going for 10 years now. We also try to make a visit one way or the other every year or two.
It only became difficult when she was in Japan — but email and the flipped-day time zone difference didn’t strain things too poorly.
It can be hard, especially when you want to help in physical ways, but remembering that being a friend is more about offering the support, love and attention than it is about being in physical proximity, I think, helps a lot.
I also do the same with my friends out and about. I also have a good friend in Chicago and one in the New Orleans area.
If you’re both committed to making it work, like any relationship that’s healthy, you can make it work.
My best friend and I are on opposite corners of the country. (I live in northwest Washington State (almost Canada), and she’s on the east side of Virginia.) We’ve been so close for more than 12 years, and what I find most difficult is that there are so many significant life changes happening so quickly (marriages, kids, career changes, grad school, etc.) that a 10 minute phone call can’t even touch on everything!
Life got so busy that she didn’t even know that my husband and I bought our first house! (Even though the process took 3 months!) Maybe that’s because I tend to ask about her life before launching into all the stuff going on in my own – even though I desperately need/want the support from her.
Others have touched on this, but like any relationship, it’s about balance and good communication.
I found that telephone calls–calling to just say hi, or listening for however long was needed–were really valuable in maintaining my NY/LA relationship with a good friend as she started a new job, her own business, started and ended a relationship, etc. When I moved overseas for a year, she sent me snail mail, and it meant the world. As a recipient, I loved getting photos! I’d had to move into a furnished apartment, and having a real photo in a frame (collage of images from a decade of friendship) was very meaningful. I’m a great believer in sending little things with notes: chocolates or poetry or books I’ve loved. And on a less specific note: my 3 best friends from college and I (we’re all approaching 30) have a shared Facebook message that is dedicated for sharing crises or celebrations… and sometimes just “Hey, I miss you all” updates.
My best friend lives thousands of miles away too and recently went through a very difficult time. We have a similar sense of humor, so I made it my job to send him the funniest things I could find on the internet every day for a couple months. Not only did he get a laugh, but he knew I was thinking about him. (In addition to lots of texts – unfortunately phone calls aren’t an option for him.)
I am so glad to read all the helpful responses to this! This article is so timely for me– my best friend lives 1,500 miles away and his grandmother had a stroke yesterday and is doing very poorly. It drives me crazy that I can’t be there for him– but what can I do from four states away when visiting is not an option?
It does help that we’re the type who always have a text or FB chat conversation going (sometimes we’re actively chatting, sometimes it’s leaving a “thinking of you” or a joke to read later), and we talk on the phone when we can, on our days off or weekends– even if it’s “check out these lyrics I wrote” or “I can’t believe my therapist is leaving me” or whatever. Even when we’re talking about nothing, it’s comforting to know that someone’s got your back when it feels like the rest of the world is against you.
Love all these suggestions on this thread– and I’m glad there are so many others who make it work having their BFF be miles and miles away.
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