In my adult life, I have experienced divorce, the tragic death of a coworker, infertility, my daughter’s LONG NICU stay, and autism diagnosis. Before you quit reading, don’t worry! This is NOT an invitation to my pity party. My adult years have also brought me immense happiness, and these past experiences have made me who I am today. I am merely establishing my credibility for what we are about to discuss.
Throughout these experiences, I have been lucky to have incredibly thoughtful friends and a close-knit family to get me through. But, I’ve also been amazed at many of the well-intended things people have said or done, thinking they were being helpful, when, in reality, they were anything but!
Oftentimes, people don’t know what to say or do when someone they know is going through a crisis. Their heart is in the right spot, but their words or actions may not come off the way they are intended.
And so, I share this with the hopes that it’s helpful for moms on both sides of a crisis – those going through it and those that want to help.
Not So Helpful
1. You hear: Everything happens for a reason.
You think: Really? Call me when you can give me a good reason for my coworker getting shot to death.
2. You hear: God doesn’t ever give you more than you can handle.
You think: While it may seem natural to bring up God in many tragic situations, this often leaves people feeling dismissed and isolated. Hearing those words can cause us to feel like we’re not measuring up, and there’s something wrong with us for not being able to “handle” the situation.
3. You hear: I could never go through what you’re going through. I don’t know how you do it. You are so strong.
You think: I don’t have a choice, and I’m not strong; I’m BARELY making it, and now you’ve isolated me even more instead of making me feel better.
4. You hear: I can relate.
You think: While I appreciate the gesture, you telling me about your child’s one night stay in the NICU doesn’t really compare to my one pound baby who has been in the NICU for seven months.
5. You hear: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
You think: While this might actually be true, it’s not helpful or reassuring. And, in the midst of a crisis, sometimes dying seems like the better option.
1. Don’t ask, just do. If you’re anything like me, you may find it hard to ask for help. This MIGHT mean admitting you can’t do everything yourself. For others, they may just be too overwhelmed to know what to ask for.
I’ll offer a few suggestions (obviously these depend on what the crisis is):
- Organize a meal delivery schedule with other friends and family.
- If she has a sick child, keep her company at the hospital. Better yet, keep her child company so she can go home and shower.
- Pick up a bottle of wine and some snacks and show up on her doorstep. An impromptu girl’s night may be just what she needed.
- Offer to pick her kids up from school or offer to take her kids for a night. Do her grocery shopping, pick up her dry cleaning or any of the other “everyday” thing that still has to go on when you’re in the midst of a crisis.
2. The simplest gesture. A phone call, text message, or an old fashioned card in the mail can go a long way when someone is going through a rough time. It’s a simple gesture that says, “You are not alone. You are loved.” Just know, that person may not respond right away, but the gesture is much appreciated.
3. Share your story . . . but ONLY if it relates. When you are going through a crisis, it’s natural that people want to relate to you. They want you to know you’re not alone. But sometimes, their stories have absolutely nothing to do with yours. Instead of being helpful or comforting, they are just plain annoying. (See # 4 in the “not so helpful” section above.) However, if you do have a relatable story, please share!
4. Push . . . a little. Sometimes a person needs a little push. Maybe this person just experienced a loss or are going through a nasty divorce. After a week of no showering and being holed up on the couch, she may need a little pushing. This person may need someone to force her to shower and get some fresh air.
5. Give space. And, if you’ve tried all of the above and the person still isn’t responding, maybe it’s time to just give her some space. After all, everyone handles things in a different way.
So, tell me, what have I left out? What are some annoyingly unhelpful clichés you’ve heard? Any other advice you have to add?