During periods of pain and suffering, individuals often need more from friends than they allow themselves to recognize or let others know. Being honest about how you’re doing or feeling and asking for help and community can be powerful, particularly in relationships like friendships. Our Senior Therapist and Director of Tribeca Maternity Rachael Benjamin recently spoke to Buzzfeed about ways to be creative with support when you or your friends are struggling.
In “A Woman Went Viral for This ’90-Day Dinner’ Tip That Has Helped Her Friends Feel More Supported During Very Difficult Life Moments,” Rachael specifically addresses the 90-day dinner, a practice explained in a viral TikTok by Becca Havian. The 90-day dinner means Havian or her friends call for a dinner in 90 days when something happens like a lost job, a breakup, a loss, or an otherwise tough emotional time. In response to this TikTok, Rachael expresses support for the idea, especially its creativity around deeply and vulnerably connecting with friends. “It makes me think that there are SO many ways to be creative in our relationships…It’s ideal when someone is struggling, to have a way of reaching out like calling a meeting for and about themselves,” she says.
Of course, individuals might need a lot more immediate support than in three months. Rachael emphasizes that there are similar ways to be creative about seeking or giving support like connecting frequently over text or sharing TikToks while doing internal hard work or seeking therapy. While not in the article, there are other means to be more and more there for each other such as sending good morning texts or pictures every day or going for a daily walk for a week to talk, walk, and build care and real-deal support that someone can call for when they need it. Or, as Rachael emphasizes, “Maybe they need to break the rule and say, ‘I need dinner in 90 days and also now.’” Self-advocacy is especially important when you are struggling and need more from those around you.
What if the 90-day dinner doesn’t make a friend feel better? Rachael explains, “If they are feeling the same or worse, that is an interesting data point that could mean a lot of things.” On the one hand, maybe 90 days is too long, too isolating, and not activating enough. Rachael observes, “They may need a whole lot more support than they have been getting or letting themselves receive. Maybe it’s a sign that they need professional help from a therapist or a psychiatrist, as well as more support from their friends, partner, or family.” This is an opportunity to think more about what is needed—a big step is actually acknowledging and addressing what isn’t working rather than leaving it alone.
On the other hand, feeling the same or worse, though, actually might be a good thing. “Worse doesn’t always mean bad,” Rachael reveals. “They may be feeling the deep moment of grief more fully and letting themselves break down a little,” she says. Feeling better doesn’t necessarily mean good or that something worked. In fact, equating feeling better with the 90-day dinner’s success misses the mark. These creative ways to support friends offer the opportunity to help a friend not hide, not have to be in pain alone, and not have to get worse on their own. Instead, they have a time and place to be their full selves, including feeling bad, so they can work through and use understanding during a hard time rather than simply moving past it.