10 Do’s and Don’t for helping someone in crisis (or grief).

This blog post is a long time coming.

I have tried to write about this topic so many times but something always stopped me.

I was afraid to be honest.

I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.

Background story

But something recently changed that.

For the past couple of months, my friends mother has been very sick. There was a period of time where my friend didn’t know if her mother was going to live or die.

(Don’t worry. My friend is aware of this blog post. She will not be blind-sided.)

A few months ago, my friends mother went into septic shock.

I spent a lot of time messaging back and forth with my friend. At the time, she was concerned she was burdening me with painful memories. I would be lying if I said that events like this do not stir up painful memories. I remember how lonely I felt when Bryon was in the ICU. I wasn’t physically alone but I was emotionally alone.

I can assure you that you don’t know that kind of fear until you have lived it.

After surviving that experience, I can’t let anyone sit through that experience alone.

So I can push aside all those painful memories and the emotions attached to those memories to help those who are going through similar situations.

(By pushing aside those emotions…I don’t mean push those emotions aside literally. It is import to acknowledge those feelings. Feel them. Then set them aside.)

My friends mother was in the hospital for a couple of months. I offered to help my friend in other ways during this time but my friend said she was okay. I didn’t push. (More on that later in this post)

My friends mother was discharged from the hospital earlier this week.

My friend has messaged me and she thanked me for being there for her. I responded that I felt bad because I did not do enough for her.

My friend’s response was that she disagreed.

She said I helped her and was informative about the experience. I helped her to ask the right questions, especially at a time when her brain could barely think of anything other than not knowing if her mother was going to live or die.

I remember how overwhelmed I was when Bryon was sick. A lot of information was thrown at me.

I pondered this and it all clicked.

I had helped my friend in the way she needed to be helped.

My feeling like I hadn’t done enough to help my friend was about making myself feel better.

I think it is human nature that we try to help people in the ways we think they need to be helped, not in the way they actually need to be helped.

Since I have officially been on both sides of this issue, I feel like I can finally write about this important topic.

  1. Do remember that it’s about THEM and not YOU.

I start with this one because I think all the other items on this list stem from this.

Before you think I am being critical, I want to remind you that I am guilty of doing this.

I am not saying everyone is helping for the wrong reasons. But unless you are Mother Theresa, you are not 100% selfless. To some extent, you are offering to help because  you are trying to make yourself feel better.

I am not saying to not help people.

Your friend or family member, or coworker or neighbor or you friend of the a friend or acquaintance or maybe even a complete stranger is having a hard go and you want help fix the problem. That is a good thing. You are a good person.

Just make sure that you are helping or offering to help to actually help, not to just make yourself feel better. If you feel better in the process, that’s a double win.

I promise you, if you keep reading, this point will make sense by the end of the list.

  1. Do respect boundaries.

Some people are not comfortable asking for help or receiving help. They may not want to accept help. They might be embarrassed to accept help. Our culture encourages us to be independent and stoic. Many of us don’t know how to accept help.

They are most likely overwhelmed.

When you are in the middle of a crisis, it’s hard to think of anything besides the person who is very sick or might die. You may want to help but the truth is, almost everything is the further thing from their mind.

It’s great that you want to help, but don’t push.

Just be ready to help when they are finally ready to accept it.

  1. Do offer specific ways to help.

When someone is going through a trauma, we want to help. We may not know how to help so we have a tendency to say “Let me know if you need anything.” I am guilty of this, even in my post-trauma life. But I am going to explain why this isn’t very helpful.

When someone is going through a trauma or has just experienced a major loss, they may not know what they need. They are overwhelmed. Their life was literally just turned upside down.

When Bryon was in the ICU, I subsisted on iced coffee and those ice cream sundae cones that were sold in the hospital cafeteria. Depending on how well Bryon was doing that day indicated whether I would take the time away to shower and take care of my daily hygiene. I know it’s gross but it’s a reality. Things that are normally viewed as vital take a backseat when you are in crisis.

I knew my parents were taking care of my toddler daughter and my cat. Bryon had scheduled all our monthly payments before he got sick. But I had no clue about anything else and I had no brain power to think of anything other than “is my husband going to live or die”?

You might be wondering, what if the person has died? A widow doesn’t need to worry anymore about the outcome, right?

To give you an example of where my mind was during those early days of widowhood, I lost my phone. My parents and I spent an hour tearing apart the house. I finally found my phone…in the refrigerator. I have no idea why my phone was there.

Also, don’t put your phone in the fridge. My phone was never the same after that. It became possessed and Bryon wasn’t there to fix it for me.

My point is, if you want to help someone going through a trauma or loss, be specific.

Is their lawn overgrown? Offer to mow it.

Is something in their house in disrepair? Offer to fix it.

Want to bring them dinner? Ask them if you can bring dinner on Thursday night or if you can give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

Just be specific because it will be a lot easier for the person to say “yes” or “no” than come up with task.

It’s great you want to help but make it easy on the person you are trying to help.

  1. Don’t take it personally if your help isn’t needed.

When someone is going through a trauma or a loss, people offer to help.

A lot of people.

That is great but the person you want to help may be inundated with offers to help. They may already have someone mowing their lawn or bringing them meals. They are most likely grateful for your offer but they are too overwhelmed to think of something else that might need tending to.

I had people get mad at me because they offered to help and I didn’t take them up for it.

I became stressed out that I was offending people because I didn’t take them up on their offers.

You don’t want to put someone who is going through a trauma or loss to feel guilty on top of all the other emotions that come with that crisis.

Don’t take it personally. However, remember to…

  1. Do follow up.

All those people offering to help the person in crisis will eventually disappear. They will move on with their lives and lose interest.

If you are patient, you will get a chance to help.

If you truly want to help the person, follow up every couple of weeks or once a month.

Trust me, there is a good chance this person will need help in the months and even years to follow. A widow will post on Facebook that they need and not get any responses and wonder what happened to all the people at the funeral who offered to help. It happens.

  1. Do follow through

If you promised to help, show up.

I know life happens and sometimes legitimate things pop up that may prevent you from following through. And that’s okay.

But if someone is going through a crisis and you gave your word, trying your hardest to be there.

If you have to back out, try to find a replacement.

The person going through the crisis is counting on you.

When Bryon was in the ICU, I had a friend agree to baby-sit my young daughter. Around the time my friend was supposed to arrive, she texts me and asks if I still needed her to baby-sit.

What?

I affirmed that yes, I still needed her to baby-sit like she agreed to.

My friends started giving excuses. She was a manipulative person in general and she was trying to get me to say something along the lines of “That’s okay. I’ll manage.”

I didn’t. I ended the conversation along the lines of “well you got to do what you got to do.”

The same person offered to help me if I needed it in the future.

I can’t make this up.

I never asked her for a favor again.

And luckily another friend came to the rescue and baby-sat my daughter that evening. In case you were wondering.

  1. Do let go of attachments and expectations.

Here you need to be like Elsa and let it go.

Just help. Don’t worry what the person does with the gift cards or excess food or whatever. Don’t get attached to any outcome. This person is just trying to survive and doesn’t need people breathing down their neck.

An example-

When asked for suggestions on how to help new widows, I always suggest a Target gift card. Because if the widow is financially strapped, she can use it to buy laundry detergent, underwear, cat food, whatever she needs. If she’s okay financially, then she gets some retail therapy. But don’t give her a gift card and tell her how to spend it.

This example leads me to…

  1. Do respect their privacy

Just because you help someone does not mean that you they owe you an explanation on life choices.

If you help someone, it does not mean that you get to ask about their financial situation or their relationship status.

If you help someone, it does not mean that you get a say in their living arrangements or parenting choices.

As Salt N Pepa said:

It ain’t none of your business.

If someone needs your opinion, they will ask for it. End of story.

  1. Don’t keep score.

It’s not like Nike. Just don’t do it.

Let the Karma Gods worry about it. They can keep track on their Google-Doc-In-the-Sky spreadsheet.

If someone is going through a crisis and you help them, I would say that there is a 99.9% chance that this experience will change them forever. They will most likely pay it forward the best to their ability. They are not required to report back to you every time they paid it forward.

Of course, there is the 0.01% chance that the person you helped isn’t profoundly changed.  And if that’s the case, you may just need to accept that you helped an asshole and move on.

If you help someone, it doesn’t mean that you can take the relationship for granted because they “owe” you.

If you help someone and feel the need to keep score, just back away from the relationship. This is where things get toxic.  This isn’t a healthy relationship for anyone involved.

  1. Don’t throw it in their face afterwards.

If you throw the fact that you helped someone in their face, you might be an asshole.

Again. It’s not like Nike. Just don’t do it.

Because, Karma.

If you find yourself in this situation, you suggest you re-evaluate your life and how you treat people.

And if you happen to be the person who accepted help and someone who helped you threw it in your face, walk away from that relationship. It’s not a healthy dynamic.

Final thoughts

I hope this information is useful. The purpose was to help people be the most effective when helping.

I really hope this post did not come across as negative. We are all probably guilty of many of the items on this list.  Don’t feel bad.  As long as you are trying to help people, then you’re heart is in the right place and that is the most important thing.

If you have any suggestions on how to help those in crisis, feel free to drop me a comment.

If you have ever been in a position where you needed to accept help, what did you find useful?

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Unexpressed thoughts

Sometimes I feel like I live in a different world than everyone else.

This feeling became even more pronounced when Bryon died. You look at the world differently after your soul has been shattered.

Trauma changes you and stays with you.

I was blind to how good my life was. It’s easy to get annoyed when people complain but they are blind. There is no point to get annoyed because their blindness is a good thing. It means they haven’t experienced trauma.

I try to make sense of what is going on in this crazy world.

People research on Google not to find,the truth but to find information to back up their viewpoint. It doesn’t matter how poor the source is.

People dehumanize those who they disagree with. People aren’t automatically unintelligent or mentally ill because they disagree with you.

I’ve had to ban myself from reading comments on news stories. Because people are crazy. I become angry and use this emoji a lot: 🤦‍♀️

And this GIF:

But people have the right to see the world how they want, even if you think that view is wrong.

And you have the right to think their view is wrong, too.

But why do we care?

We have our opinions, we may choose to share them and then we get pissed when people don’t agree…

How many people who share their opinions on Facebook actually go out and make a difference?

However, when someone shares an opinion you don’t have, you can disagree.

But just because someone’s opinion invokes a strong reaction from you doesn’t make that person’s opinion less valid and wrong because It doesn’t reasonate with yours.

And just because someone disagrees with your opinion doesn t make your opinion less valid.

Why am I writing this?

Because my newsfeed is full of opinions and news stories. And I am not quitting Facebook because I like seeing pictures of everyone’s kids and pets. I want to see people’s vacations and new homes. I want to see funny memes. I even want to see pictures of what people had for dinner.

But I have been having a thought about an issue. It’s actually what I think of as a “looking at both sides opinion” but I don’t share because I feel that all it will do is piss everyone off. It will most likely have the opposite effect than what I would intend.

It’s all madness.

The funny thing, I have spent 40 years trying to fit in and reasonate with this “different world” but I think I finally realize is that I don’t have too.

Not every opinion or idea needs to be expressed.

One time Bryon and I had a layover and there were these two newly acquainted strangers who were talking.

And talking.

And talking.

These people wouldn’t shut up.

At that time, I was pregnant with my daughter and Bryon and I were both tired and crabby.

Bryon got exasperated and says (to me) “Oh. Em. Gee. Has this guy ever heard of the concept of an unexpressed thought?”

So I decided it’s okay to not share all my thoughts.

I don’t want to be like annoying airport guy.

I mean, we all have upwards of 60,000 thoughts a day and it would be impossible to share that many.

That’s a challenge I won’t be accepting.

But of the thoughts that have provoked a strong reaction, I don’t need to share.

What’s the point? To provoke an equal and opposite reaction? To seek some sort of validation.

Nope. I decided it’s okay to be okay with the feeling that I live in a different world from everyone else.

Everyone lives in their own world.

There is no way you can reasonated with everyone.

So you keep doing you and I will keep going me.

Farewell 2018: Leaving the negativity behind

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2016 was the worst year of my life.

It will always be.

Only one thing could happen to me that could top that but I am not going to entertain that thought.

2017 was a fog.  I was surviving.

2018 was the year that I need to stop surviving and start to live again.

When 2018 started, I had a feeling that things were going to be very different by the end of the year.

I was right.

(Funny how that happens…)

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Was 2018 a bad year for me?

Yes and no.

There was a lot of death.  I lost my grandmother and two friends.

The year was full of hard lessons.

I had to learn that people and things are not always what they purport themselves to be.

I had to learn that I need to look for internal rewards and not to look externally.

I had to learn to release and let go.

I had to learn to live again and make decisions on the direction of my life.

I had shit thrown at me.

But I survived it.  And I am smarter for it.

I learned what was really important.

Seriously, I am 40-year-old woman, who has been to Hell and back and I have a small child dependent on me.  It was time for me to focus on what was important.

Last year I didn’t write much in December.  I was beginning to think this year was going to be the same.  However, I think over the next couple of weeks, as part of the releasing process, I am going to write posts about what I am leaving behind in 2018.

Kind of like a farewell rock tour but less cooler.  A lot less cooler.

I am going to take all the negativity that was thrown my way, put it on an imaginary Viking funeral Ship, light it on fire (again, imaginary.  I don’t want to blamed for starting any fires.) and send it off.

If you have anything you need to release before we begin 2019, I invite you to put them on the imaginary Viking funeral ship.

A little life update. Well, kinda.

I realize that I probably oversold the topic.  You probably read that and got very excited.

But I have nothing life changing to report.

I am still living in the same house with no plans to move.

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I am still working my same “day ” job.  (I have day in quotes because I work many of my hours after my daughter goes to bed.)

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A Monday joke because it is Monday

And no, I am not dating.  Not even close.  And that is okay.  I am focused on myself and my daughter at the moment anyway.

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So I didn’t mean to get your hopes up on anything you could possibly gossip about me.  Well, I did have a little bit of a wardrobe malfunction this weekend.  Nothing scandalous, just annoying. But that happens a lot when you are…well…shaped like me.  Whatever.  Though I am a little pissy because I spent close to $100 bucks on alterations at David’s Bridal.  Luckily Kimmy Gibbler had double sided tape.  She’s amazing.  She thinks of everything.

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So nothing major.  Same house.  Same job.  Same relationship status.  Just taking a little time to re-center going from Spring (though really it has been more of a Sprinter this year) to Summer.

It has been a crazy 6 or 7 weeks.  I would count but I am too lazy to at the moment.

At the end of March, I went to Chicago and Wisconsin.  In April,  I went to Philadelphia and Boston/Salem.  In May we had the Derby Party and a very special wedding.

Needless to say that I am tired and hopefully things will be slowing down here.  I don’t mean that in a manner that I don’t appreciate the busyness of the past 7 weeks.  It has been a fun and happy time. But it has been tiring.

As we enter into summer, I need to recenter and re-focus.  I have a lot of housekeeping to do,  literally and figuratively.

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Around my house, I have been slowly cleaning out and donating items.  Usually one or two bags or boxes a week.  It still hasn’t made a dent but I refuse to let anything new enter the house.  My new rule is, if it comes in a box, the box then has to be filled with items to donate.  Even if the box came from Amazon with a birthday present for someone else’s kid and the original contents of the box won’t be staying in the house.  The rule in the McKim house is that if something comes in, something has to go out.

I plan to stay closer to home this summer but I do have some traveling happening including a trip coming up on Memorial Day weekend as well as a trip to Boston in June for a Red Sox game.  A college friend of mine has expressed interest in meeting up in Boston and I would love to see her so that may be happening.  But my travel will be more spread out and casual in nature.

Staying close to home doesn’t mean boring.  My daughters dance recital is coming up and I am keeping her in dance and gymnastics over the summer because she enjoys it so why not?  I also have a few concerts to go to that I am really excited about.

I will be spending more time on my writing.  I started writing a book and I hope to finish it before the end of summer.  It isn’t the book I envisioned I would be writing first but I felt the inspiration to start it and went with that.  I don’t think this will affect the frequency as to when I post on the blog.  I will update you all when it is close to being finished.

I also have a few other ideas for projects but they are in the baby stages so I am going to refrain from sharing them.  I want to see if they will take off before I share them.

What do you have coming up this summer?

Manic-Monday-Motivation

Public Service Anouncement: A widow’s rant

You have heard that someone has died.

It makes you sad.

You think about some fond memories with the deceased.

You may want to write about these lovely memories on Facebook and add a picture.

But for the love of all that is Holy, don’t post anything on social media until the next of kin has made the death public.

While the post may come with good intentions, it is actually one of the most disrespectful things you can do to a grieving person.

This is like births and engagements.  The ones who are the most affected get to share the news.

The next of kin, which is usually the spouse, parents, child or sibling of the deceased has a lot of do before the death is made public.  They have to notify all the other family members and close friends of the death.  And if someone posts about the death before it is made public, then those family members and close friends may hear about the death first on Facebook.

How would you feel if you found out about your aunts death on Facebook?

So please, please, please, save your social media condolences until after the next of kin has shared the news.

Your post will be appreciated.  I was worried that I was only going to remember Bryon as he was in the ICU.  Once I made his death public, Facebook was showered with memories and pictures of him.  After spending five months sitting beside him in the ICU, I was instantly reminded that he was a man who was full of life and I was relieved that that was how he was remembered.

Your post will be appreciated.

But please.

Wait until the death has been made public.

 

Recharging: Hiking at Thatcher State Park

Yesterday morning Kimmy Gibbler asked me if I wanted to go on a hike with the kids to Thatcher State Park.  I was game.  I had never been to Thatcher State Park but I have always heard it was a lovely place to visit.  My local blogging friend Melissa recently visited Thatcher Park and wrote about her trip.

I just had to make an emergency stop at Target to get a pair of sneakers for my daughter because I think I might have left them in Chicago.  Once we got a new pair of sneakers, (and some fruit snacks and some juice boxes and some bottles of water) we were ready.

We didn’t hike long or anywhere steep because we had small children with us, but it was still a really fun outing.   I look forward to many more!

Do you hike? Where do you like to hike?

 

100th post

I don’t feel like I have anything profound to say.

I have written a lot.  I still have a lot more to write.  It’s been a challenge at times to put my emotions into words.

Writing has helped me so much.

Maybe this will be permanent.  Maybe this will be temporary.

I have met new blogging friends and I still have a lot of new blogging friends to meet.

Thank you for the support and thank you for reading!