This is not my first time dealing with medical crisis. My first husband was in and out of hospitals and treatment facilities for seven years while we battled brain cancer. I don't know anyone who doesn't have a good-sized crisis or two to their name (if you haven't yet, just wait.) :-) . Death, wayward children, divorce, lost employment, illness, relationships issues...they all can break your heart. On the other hand, surviving them can make us stronger, more resilient, more capable of dealing with the next thing life throws our way. You find out how much you have in reserves when you have to use them. You also find out who your real friends are.
We've had offers for cleaning, doing our yard work, child care, chauffeur service, meals, emotional support, and lots of others. Thank you all so much! I know you can't take away this terrible situation, but it is so comforting to know that there is a safety net strung out underneath us while we wobble along this tightrope.
So what do you do when a friend has a crisis? I've gotten a lot of "What can we do?" So here is a short list for crises in general. For our particular situation, I think we're covered for now (a thousand thanks!).
-bring food. It's comforting. It's wonderful not to have to worry about meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. Also good are snack baskets, sandwiches and portable food to take to the hospital so you don't have to eat in the cafeteria, and a frozen dinner or a quick-fix meal to have on hand.
-listen. We all need to talk sometimes. It's ok to just sit and be quiet sometimes. Don't demand that I spill my guts, but don't come to me crying and distraught so I have to comfort you, either.
-give specific suggestions. I can deal much better with, "Can I take your car down and fill up the tank?" or, "Do you need me to get anything at the grocery store for you?" than "Let me know if I can do anything." You might even help me remember that I do have a need there.
-sent supportive messages. Phone calls are nice, but I'm often too busy to be able to pick up, and I haven't the time to talk to everyone. I love to get happy comments on this blog, or notes in my email (Trent hasn't had a moment to check his, though). A personal note gets posted on the bulletin board in Angelee's hospital room. The hospital will bring in messages from their website, or even just a phoned-in message. It's nice to know people are thinking of us.
-don't worry about saying the wrong thing. Don't think you have all the right words, but don't worry too much about having to be eloquent.
-visit when appropriate. Call to make sure it's ok first.
-be understanding. If I don't return your call, I don't hate you. If I don't answer, I'm not ignoring you. If I don't talk long, I'm not trying to get rid of you permanently. If I say no, I'm not trying to be mean. I just can only concentrate on the essentials right now.
-establish a contact person. It's nice to only have to tell the story once, and then everyone else can contact that person to get information. Saves a lot of time and emotion.
Things to NOT do:
-stay for a long time. We all tire out quickly.
-visit with a big group. It gets loud and crazy and way tiring.
-visit if you are sick. Duh.
-ignore that there is a problem.
-be negative. We need to be lifted, not dragged down.
-make demands. Even if I could do something two days ago, that doesn't mean I can today.
-think that my suggestions work for everyone. (my disclaimer) IF you have a question about what is appropriate, ASK!
I had a list of wonderful suggestions from the Young Widow's Group, but I can't find them now, or I would post that, too (anyone have Lorna's email address?). So here is my best bit of advice:
Be a good friend NOW, before the crisis. Good friends can sometimes dispel the problem in the first place. Or, when a situation does come up, we are much more apt to turn to folks we already know care about us. Hug your kids. Tell your family you love them.
Thank you, thank you, to all of the beautiful souls who have helped in a hundred big and little ways. You lift my spirits as you lift my burdens!