Saturday, January 28, 2012

When Disaster Strikes

This month three of my friends are facing terrible losses - a mastectomy, a death in the family, and extreme financial distress, respectively.

As someone who's suffered serious illness and lost a husband to cancer, I know that many people's response to disasters like these is, "Please let me know if I can do anything for you."  Unfortunately, what I really needed in times of extreme stress was a shoulder to cry on, and I'm pretty sure that most of the friends and relatives who extended vague offers were thinking more in terms of tuna casserole.  I was hesitant to make them uncomfortable by asking for a level of help I wasn't sure they were willing or able to give.  The hospice organization that oversaw Tom's care at the end of his life had group grief counseling available, but I didn't want to share my pain with strangers or listen to theirs.

I was touched and relieved when I broke up with Barry that a good friend and one of my cousins both explicitly offered emotional support.  As my friend said, "Sometimes you just need to talk and know it won't go anywhere."

People in distress shouldn't have to ask for help.  If someone you know suffers a loss, don't make them beg; please permanently retire "Let me know if I can do anything for you" from your vocabulary.  Make a concrete offer - even if it is for tuna casserole.

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