By Caitlin Murray of Big Time Adulting
If you haven’t experienced it already, by this point in life, you’ve at least heard of someone going through a really rough life event. Whether it be the untimely loss of a loved one, a difficult surgery, or a serious illness, we’ve all been affected, directly or indirectly, and it can sometimes be awkward for outsiders to navigate. Most people want to know what they can do to help someone in crisis, but aren’t necessarily sure how.
Two years ago, when my three-year-old son was diagnosed with Leukemia, our lives were turned upside down. I’ve always been a person who hates asking for help and, for the first time, I was forced to accept it. A number of my close friends asked me what the most helpful and meaningful things were that people had done for us. It was an incredibly difficult time for my family and, since my son is in remission and doing much better now, I have had a chance to reflect more on the kindness and generosity from the people in our lives. These are the 10 most memorable, helpful and thoughtful things you can do for someone in crisis:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask – Often when we see someone for the first time since hearing of their crisis, we are unsure of what to say and can make the mistake of avoiding it all together, but it is always, always better to say something and ask how they are doing. Once you open the door to the conversation, if they offer detail feel free to ask more, but if they seem fragile, just leave it at that and let them know they have been on your mind. They will be grateful for the acknowledgement.
2. Bring Provisions – If you’re close to the person in crisis, take the reins and organize a Meal Train. If you’re more of a peripheral friend, see if you can get onto the Meal Train so you have a scheduled slot. If no one has organized a Meal Train for the family, drop something off that is healthy and creative. Even people in crisis will get sick of baked ziti at some point.
3. Make offers – Don’t ask people in crisis what you can do to help them; offer specifics. If they have kids and you’re taking your kids to the playground, shoot them a message to let them know you can take their kids, too. People need some time alone to grieve or cry or to just be.
4. Check in – Text messages are a beautiful thing. If someone you know is going through a difficult time, your intermittent thoughts might be more helpful than you realize. Feeling support is a great reminder that you’re not alone, as well as a distraction from the situation. When my son was diagnosed we were so flooded with messages of support, it helped ease the sadness. I am still so grateful for the people who continue to check in on him and us even two years later.
5. Think practical – If someone you know gets cancer, for example, chances are they’re receiving hats and blankets up the wazoo, and they will have to wash and store all these items. Try to think of things that won’t inundate them or their storage capacity in any way. If the family is under financial stress and you feel uncomfortable sending cash, gift certificates are a good idea, too.
6. Don’t feel the need to send a gift – A handwritten note or card can have the same effect.
7. Invest – If you are really close to a person going through a difficult life event, do your best to educate yourself about whatever they are going through (i.e. the details of a procedure, treatment regimens, or logistics of caretaking). If you have some understanding of the lingo, it will make it easier for that friend to talk to you.
8. Send help – The last thing anyone in crisis wants to deal with is cleaning the toilets or doing the laundry. Band together with some friends and send a cleaning service to their house.
9. Be positive – Your vibes are powerful. Reassure your friends that easier times are ahead. If people can feel your confidence that things will be OK in the end, they will feed off that; the power of positive energy is boundless.
10.When all else fails, bring liquor – Enough said.
About the Author
Caitlin Murray is a mother, part-time employee and freelance writer with two young kids, one of which is in treatment for Leukemia, and one more on the way. She strives to parent with humor and optimism. Follow on Instagram and her blog.