Friday, June 1, 2012

3 responses

Last month at MOPS I shared some things I learned during our recent hospital journey, and I wanted to process some of those same thoughts here on my blog.

Before I begin, I want to reiterate what I said to those ladies: that what I challenge in this post is as much for me as it is for anyone else.

I am learning that there are 3 main ways we can respond with someone is going through a difficult situation:

1. We can say nothing/do nothing. Reasons might be that we don't know what to say, we don't think we have time, or we think other people will reach out. I have found this to be very hurtful, and after talking with a few other people about this, I know I'm not alone.

2. We can say, "Let me know if you need anything." While this may very well be genuine, it puts the person receiving that message in a tricky spot. It's hard to know if the person offering really means it, or how/when they might be willing to help. I have heard that statement dozens of times over the past months, and I can think of only a couple times that I actually contacted someone who'd said to let them know if I needed help.

3. But the third response, and the one I challenge us all to aspire to, is to DO SOMETHING INTENTIONAL AND SPECIFIC. Friends and family reached out in so many amazing ways before, during and after our hospital stay. Here are some examples:
*Childcare--Caring for Nathan and Natalie while we were away is definitely the most sacrificial gift we received, and we again express gratitude to my parents and Eric's mom. We also had several friends here who gave my parents a break now and then by inviting our kids over to play.
*Food--several people brought meals here to the house, either for our family to enjoy in our absence, or for us to have once we got home. We were also blessed with several people who brought us homemade food during our hospital stay. As a patient, my meals were covered, but food expenses for Eric would have been much higher if his sister, Kendra, and others hadn't identified this practical need.
*Communication--Every email and piece of mail we received was a treasured reminder that though we were far from home, we were being thought of and lifted in prayer!
*Outside the box--A dear friend ordered Eric's and my favorite candy bars and magazines and had the hospital gift shop deliver them to our room. Another blessed me with a haircut certificate at the local beauty school. (This was such a lovely idea to be pampered, and it made me cry, because I was supposed to get my hair cut the VERY day that I wound up in the hospital.) Monica made a really neat mobile with prayer requests on it that is still hanging in our dining room window.

If you would like some additional inspiration of ways you can reach out to others, this list is awesome. Though it's intended for moms with new babies, I think many of the suggestions have a much wider appeal.

Going through this trial has made me want to be more intentional in reaching out to others, so as I said initially, this is a challenged I need to be reminded of. I'm curious to read your responses to this post.

16 comments:

Mom said...

Great post! Not only is it good to be reminded of the many ways you (and we!) were blessed while you were in the hospital awaiting Naomi's arrival, it is also good to have suggestions for how to bless others going through difficult times.

I will always remember many years ago when I was recovering from surgery, a friend showed up at our door with a mop and bucket announcing she was there to mop our floors. What a blessing and lesson that was to me! Love and miss you, Mom

Wendi said...

I tend to so things like #1 or 2. I think because sometimes I am not sure what to say or day. I certainly don't want to be in the way in an already stressful time. I will try to be more intentional the next time and just do what my heart is telling me to do.

Thanks for sharing this!

Speaky1013 said...

Thanks for posting this, Carrie. It is a gracious reminder of how we can really love the people around us. I love how you process your thoughts!

Talk to you this afternoon, friend!

MH in OH said...

I was on bed rest with my twins at a time when we were new to a place and hardly knew anyone. We were also 4 - 6 hours' drive away from our extended families. We received a meal from one of my husband's co-workers during that time (and no one else) - it really meant a lot to me, even though we did not know this person well, they made us lasagna roll-ups. That experience has led me to let others know that I am happy to be called upon to make meals for bed resting or new mothers. Even though I may not know the person well, I want to bless and encourage them in some small way. I also believe that a new baby meal doesn't necessarily have to be delivered in the first week to be appreciated - sometimes it's nice to stretch those things out a bit after the fact...
Thanks for the reminders!

Tracy N said...

Agreed. There is nothing worse than asking a #2 person for help and have them stammer and backtrack because they didn't really mean it. The #3 people are lifesavers. From a little note or email to something big (like cleaning my house!)- those things gave me such encouragement!

thehomespunheart said...

Hey Carrie,

Great post, so glad I got to hear this from you in person! I'll e-mail you a couple of other thoughts! :)

Love you,
Monica

Debra said...

This is great advice, Carrie. I think so many people have a hard time dealing with what to say/how to help, especially in difficult times. I think we are all lucky if we have a few people in our lives that are #3's. I wish there were more but sadly there usually isn't. These are also usually the same people you will see on the PTA, as room moms @ school and board members of MOMS club or MOPS. :)

Recently, I sent a note to a friend whose mom was ill & they thought she wouldn't be around much longer. I really didn't think anything of it; I just wanted to let her know I was thinking of her and how I knew her mom appreciated her putting everything aside to be with her. I was overwhelmed at how touched she was by this simple gesture. It was something so simple on my part but it meant so much to my friend.

Thanks for sharing this!

Milissa said...

So true! My brother is battling cancer and these are things we found most helpful.
1. Caringbridge.org - It was the best way to share news & updates with all their loved ones as they couldn't realistically update each person individually. You can set this up publicly or privately. Caringbridge has a guestbook tab. My brother LOVES the encouraging messages people leave him and his family daily.
2. Takethemameal.com - People signed up to take them a meal. You knew who was bringing food, what they were bringing, and when. Those who wanted to bring food knew when they needed it or whether to bring a fresh/frozen dish. It helped with meal planning and kept us from wasting food.
*Both websites are FREE!
3. Monetary resources. Obviously, money is always helpful, but it’s not the only way to give. (If you can't give money, it's fine...there are MANY other ways to give so just skip this item.) Grocery store and restaurant gift cards were very helpful (for reasons you mentioned.) Drug store gift cards were also helpful because that allowed others to pick up needed meds and deliver them. Their work played Santa. This allowed the kids to participate in that holiday tradition and gave them a sense of normalcy.
4. Household chores. Neighbors just showed up and blew leaves out of the yard, hung Christmas lights, etc. Loved ones put up their Christmas tree. My brother and his wife could not do those things, but it was important to them to let their kids participate in holiday traditions and give them a sense of normalcy. Babysitting. Take the kids for a short time or just come over and hang out...either way gives caregivers a break. Take pictures of the kids when you are playing with them and they are having fun. Any other household chore you can think of. Laundry. Errands. (We would give gift cards for errands.) For someone with serious illness, the mundane of life happens right alongside the illness. They need those mundane tasks done too.
5. Staying optimistic. If someone is dealing with a serious illness and you are interested in learning about it...by all means do so. But PLEASE do not show up and tell "worst case" stories. The internet is not always the most reliable source for information...and that is not helpful. Instead, show up with encouraging news or jokes. When my brother was in the hospital, he had a rule. To gain access to his room, you had to come with "good news." This rule applied to everyone...doctors, nurses, cleaning personnel, and visitors. You could share good news or share a joke but you had to share something positive. This was a very stressful and scary time in my brother's life but it was also a season of joy others. My brother did not want anyone to feel guilty about having good news...and sometimes he really needed that good news to distract him from his situation. Please do not feel bad about sharing your joys. We are happy for you too. If that feels to weird to you...then come with jokes. Everyone needs a laugh. :)
6. Send cards. Send more than one. Send one when you hear...send one a week later...send one a few weeks later...send one a few months later. If it's a serious illness...it doesn't go away overnight. Send one to the spouse or the kids. Lots of people are there in the beginning. But people have their own lives and support fades with time. (This is not a complaint...just perspective on the "long haul.") If you can't do anything in the beginning but send a card, it's okay. In time, when you are able to contribute...there will be plenty of opportunity. There actually may be more opportunity to contribute (by means of taking food or helping with chores) if you wait. In the beginning, everyone is trying to do everything and it can be hard to find a place to contribute. Wait. A place will open up.

Hope this gives people some ideas.

Jthemilker said...

This is a great post, especially because I am somewhat surrounded by pregnant ladies right now. (some near and some far) Lots of good ideas. I also have an acquaintance who recently had hip replacement surgery so I'm wondering what I can do for her besides a simple get-well card and flowers. Any suggestions?

Katie said...

What an excellent and challenging post, Carrie. Sorry I am reading it late ~ we just got back from my husband's grandmother's house. I was thinking about this very topic most of the weekend though, as we were attempting to be of help to our grandma who just lost her husband in April. I love what you said about the contrast in responses between #2 and #3. I can't wait to read the comments and your follow-up post ~ this is definitely a challenge that has been on my heart! Thanks for posting your thoughts on this.

Carrie said...

GREAT post! (Although I'm a little late on the bandwagon.)

I think you said it best when you say - BE INTENTIONAL! Because you are right, it's hard to tell when someone says "let me know if you need anything" whether they really mean it or not. Only a few times have I worked up the courage to say, "If mean that, it would be helpful to do _________." But it does take courage and then you feel like you're sort of putting the person out a bit in the asking.

Anyway, all that to say - I agree and GREAT post!

Leah in Iowa said...

You got some great ideas here in the comments!

I have a friend, recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, who has had several surgeries and procedures, and will start chemo shortly. She mentioned wanting to make a pretty place outside her front door, so Gary and I will be tackling that for her. I'm thinking a trellis with a climbing plant that will grow and flower year after year (both for beauty's sake, and as a reminder that her life will go on.) Also some pots of bright colored flowers for when she's not feeling so great and her spirits need a lift when she's sitting out in her porch swing.

I also created a document asking her to name a bunch of her favorite things - cold drink, movie, dessert, color, vegetable, etc. That way I can strive to bless her with things she loves along this journey. If I'm going to go to the effort of doing something for her, I want her to hopefully enjoy it.

Just a few thoughts of mine...

Kim said...

You are so right about just being intentional and doing something. Last fall we spent several weeks in the hospital with my dad - one of the greatest things done for us was in the first two weeks while he was in intensive care, family and friends brought whole meals up to the waiting room - enough to feed up to about 25 some days. (Our family sort of took over the waiting room...:) Although there was a sign about having no food in that room, the hospital never said a word. And it was such a huge blessing, especially for my step-mom, who would not have had anything to eat otherwise as she didn't want to leave dad. I will never forget that kindness and will look for opportunities to do the same for someone else someday. That is certainly an area of ministering that most don't think about.

Katie said...

Just yesterday I learned about the website: giveforward.com .

Tragically, a few days ago, a young 16 month old child passed away after initially having a fever and intestinal infection. I guess the child underwent surgery and was sent home but was later airlifted to the hospital with complications and then passed away. I guess this all took place in a couple weeks time or less. Prayers were requested on a local forum for the family and then a link was posted to a personal site on giveforward. I guess this is a fundraising website set up on behalf of an individual or family undergoing heavy financial burdens with a medical crisis. Within 24 hours, $10K was raised for this family to pay for the looming medical bills and funeral of their little one.

I just wanted to share as I had never heard of this site before but was amazed at how quickly God provided funds for this family during such a dark time. I can imagine the financial stress just compounds everything else.

kathi @ purple cows & root beer floats said...

we are a military family, living away from all our family and close friends. when folks found out my parents would not be coming down to help out with the birth if our son in February, EVERYONE on Facebook "offered" to help. ... meals, play dates and sitters! I assured my mom we'd be okay, I was so grateful.

but ... when Zach was actually born, most of those "offerings" were empty. it was hard and heartbreaking at the same time.

I have since vowed to be intentional without being overwhelming withy own offerings of help. keeping it simple, but more importantly KEEPING it.

great post, Carrie!
Love,
kathi

Angel said...

I really loved your post! I shared it, and someone sent me this link along the same lines that was also very helpful about helping a family in crisis. I know several families right now so your post and this one were such blessings! http://www.takethemameal.com/blog/19-ways-to-help-during-crisis.php