Do you have friends or family in a medical (or other) crisis? Who doesn’t, huh? How are you handling that? In my small circle we have dealt with some big ones over the last 4 years. I never did get my cape or badge or certificate, but I still feel I have enough real life experience and research to back my insights about these heart-breaking situations.
The biggest impact on giving comfort can be in what you do or don’t say. Skip the ubiquitous cliches and resist sharing your own similar, (but actually, completely different) experience. No one is in a hurry, so take your time and give some thought to each word that comes out of your well-intentioned loving mouth. Make it about them, (the victim or the caregiver) not you. “This must be so hard for you.” “I’m so sorry.” “I wish you weren’t going through this.” Like that, you get the idea; short, sympathetic and focused on them. And, no %^&* cliches! None.
The second biggest impact on offering comfort is not to make an ambiguous offer to help. Again, think first, before you even come into contact. Instead of asking your crisis-foggy-brained friend or family member what you can do for them, ask yourself what you would need. If you were in the same situation, what would you need? Then make a list of practical, helpful things that you are certain you can commit to.
List maybe 5-8 things. Like, “I have Tuesdays off, I can make a meal for your family and do some laundry for you.” “I can come over this weekend and mow the lawn.” Or clean the house, help you make a calendar of things to do, run errands on a specific day, or any day, if you are available. Do they have a patient care page set up online to keep family and friends in the loop without a lot of phone calls? Whatever will be the most helpful for their situation. Write your final five to eight offers and hand it to the caregiver or the patient. Make sure that all your contact info is included, even if they are your best friend, and you talked on the phone every day before the crisis. Foggy brains.
If you are not up to a big time or energy commitment, but would like to do something, offer to read to them. Or to sit with them for 1/2 an hour while their caregiver takes a break. Can you stop by and get their mail for them? Bring them a treat? How about be their secretary for an hour? Maybe a mini spa treatment; braid hair, rub feet, paint nails…you know them, what would they love?
Careful consideration of these two things can have the biggest impact on the care and comfort that you can offer a friend or family member during a crisis. I’ve read hundreds of books and articles on the topic, and the same two issues come up over and over again. We tend to say the wrong thing or we don’t offer specific, practical help. If nothing else, find 100 ways to say that you are sorry, and skip offering to help until you know what to offer.
I hope this helps you and yours, I wish none of us needed to know or use this information.
Feel free to add your suggestions, questions or comments. What did I miss?