How to help

How to Help

How to Help

Being the unfortunate expert in going through hard times, I often get loving tender hearted people who ask me how they can best help their loved ones who are dealing with something hard. Parenting a kid with special needs, dealing with miscarriage or infertility, chronic illness, and so much more, I am all too well acquainted with hard stuff so people come to me for the lessons I’ve learned that they can apply to their relationships.

Here’s the big thing I’ve learned: no two people need help in the same way. I’ve gotten to the point where I have very little pride and I’ll just take what goodness comes my way. But for other people, well intentioned but actually unhelpful help is just one more thing they have to deal with.

This is especially true when people express sympathy and then say, “Let me know if you need anything.”

I know that comes from a sincere place. We feel helpless watching people we love go through all the hard things life holds and we don’t know what to do. But we want to do something, so we give some vague offer of good intention and then our phones never ring. Because who among us is good at asking for help when we’re in the middle of suffering? When I’m dealing with the worst of it I know that there are people who would show up for me, but the thought of picking up that phone or delegating some part of my life to them is too exhausting to contemplate.

But since everyone needs help in different ways, what else are we supposed to do?

Here’s what:
You hand your loved one a questionnaire. You ask them what kind of help would be helpful and what kind of help would really only be about you feeling like you were doing something, and then you follow through.

Giving your friend this little handout my friend Jerilyn and I made for you (I wrote the words, she made it beautiful) is an act of love all by itself, but it allows you to learn exactly what your friend needs without giving them a burden. You can learn what works and then without any further instructions you can do it.

i know times are challenging for you right now, and since you are my friend, and i love you, i want to do something to give you support.
but i want it to be something that would really help you, and not just make me feel less helpless as i watch my friend go through hard things.
tell me what would be truly helpful, and i will be there.

bringing dinner would be great.
dinner is one area we’re covered.
food would be great, but only if it meets these specific dietary requirements.

providing childcare would be a nice break.
my child really just needs to stay with me.

my last priority is a clean house. i would totally let you tackle that for me.
are you kidding? i’m not letting anyone see the state of my house.

all of my clothes live in one pile. i would let you find them a home.
if somebody folded my towels wrong it just might be my last straw.

flowers are beautiful and so thoughtful.
flowers are only great in theory and then i have to clean out a moldy vase.
chocolate makes everything better.
i don’t need cavities on top of everything else.
a care package on my doorstep shows me that i’m thought of.
i want to talk to someone about anything else. let’s chat about something fun.
i want company without the pressure to be entertaining. just come sit with me.
i need people to keep a little distance and let me take the lead.
i need someone who is unafraid to let me be angry, and sad, and depressed, and whatever else i’m feeling. help me process what i’m going through.
i need a distraction. take me to__________________________.
this is what i need more than anything: _______________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________

I love you. I believe in you. And I will be there for you.

Download the pdf here and use it with love.

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