As most/all of you know, almost two years ago, now, my husband Steve was in a near-fatal car wreck which left him blind. His recovery was spent in two different hospitals over the course of a month, followed by nearly a year of physical therapy, and then some time on his own at the School for the Blind, operated by the State of Iowa. In many ways, the recovery continues today. That experience taught me some very valuable lessons about how to handle family tragedies, and how to offer help to others in that situation.
In the last year, several people on this blog have experienced, either first hand or through family and friends, health-related crises. Thinking about my own situation, and about theirs, I’ve put together a list of ideas on how outsiders can help handle that crisis.
I’ve divided those ideas into the usual “Do/Don’t” format. Today, the “Do’s”:
- Offer help. Whatever help you can give, offer it. Whether it’s offering to drive the kids to practice, cleaning the house, walking the dog, or making dinner, every little bit helps, and is oh, so very appreciated. You have no idea that something that you consider “simple,” everyday, or just on the way anyway, could be the biggest worry on your friend’s mind at the moment. And you’ve just removed that worry by picking up a simple gallon of milk! (don’t forget the cookies)
- Listen. Something as simple as listening or holding someone while they cry, to the victim or the family, that’s an awful lot. Especially if you’re that non-judgmental friend who listens to the angry and/or guilt-ridden outbursts that are sure to exist.
- Pray. I am not a religious person. I often joke that I joined the Catholic Church once, but it didn’t take. I’ve never been a religious person. But I’m VERY faithful. I believe in God, I just don’t know what name to apply. Many people are like me. We believe in the power of prayer, of positive thinking, of a group of people getting together and voicing concerns and offering them up to God. So even if your friend isn’t your religion, pray with her. She will appreciate it. Miracles happen every day – I’ve witnessed them. And praying for them, and thanking God for them when they’re granted are appropriate, regardless of your religious stripe or spot.
- “Think outside the box”. Do you have a talent for writing? Offer to be the family’s virtual-liaison to the outside world by setting up a blog, and posting daily updates (with the family’s approval, of course). If you’re an accountant or a lawyer, help sort out the myriad forms and issues that inevitably pop up. One of the most thoughtful gifts I received when Steve was in the hospital was a gift card good at any of the cafeterias within the hospital. It’s a huge hospital complex, and they had many, many cafeterias, eateries and cafés. This card was good at ALL of them. It was most welcome, because I literally lived at that hospital for the first week and a half of his stay there. This meant that I could stay nearby and eat, rather than relying on someone being around to drive me to a local food place.
- Organize. If you’re a coordinated-minded person, and your friend has a big circle of friends or family who wishes to pitch in, take the lead. Make a list of people and talents. Build a schedule of tasks that need doing, and people who can accomplish those tasks, and start plugging them in. So many times, we sit back when we see this needs to be done, because we don’t want to intrude. Seriously, intrude! Offer first, of course, don’t just barge in there. But if it needs to be done, and you have the skills… then make use of them. On the small level, you can organize friends and family. On the big level, organize a fund-raiser for the family. But don’t just sit there.
I’m sure that many of you have other ideas… please share them. And hopefully, tomorrow, we’ll have the “Don’ts”.