Helping the hurting

After my sister passed away in early November 2010;  and my husband was battling excruciating pain in his lower back, I was feeling quite devastated.  My husband had been my go-to person, second only to God;  but I didn’t feel comfortable laying more grief on what was already a bad situation.  He was grieving for her as well, they had bantered in a good-natured way all the years they’d known each other and I knew he was sympathetic to my pain of losing her.  Even with the great amount of pain he was enduring, he wouldn’t hear of not going with us when we made the trek up north to identify her.   He had driven all the way to Staten Island and he drove a lot while there.  He had intended to drive all the way home too, but his pain became so great that I took over in the last little bit of New Jersey.

A week or so after we returned home and were trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, I returned to my daily routine and got back out among people.  It was there that I started to notice that others, while sympathetic, had no idea how to help me.

There is that one thing we all say, when we are faced with a situation involving a friend who is going through a crisis:  “If there is anything I can do for you, let me know.”

Can I be bold and say that I think that’s one of the most useless sentences in existence? Now before you get mad, I’ve said it a million times myself.   I even had one person say to me, “If you don’t tell us what you need, we can’t help you.” What I needed was for them not to put it that way.

At it’s best, it sounds really good and I’m sure the people who say it mean it at the time.

But it puts the responsibility of meeting my needs on me;  and I’m already overwhelmed.   At my core, I need to cry, I need to scream, I need to get angry, I need to breathe.  I need to call someone at 4 a.m. because I can’t sleep.

Most people going through a crisis still have a speck of pride and won’t ask for help for that reason. They’ve done it perfectly fine up until then and they don’t know that they can’t now.  And it might look like, from the outside, that they are capable, they are thriving.  But really it’s all going to fall on top of them at some point.

The third reason that sentence is useless is the majority of people won’t help you.  Oh, they think they will, but wait until the rubber meets the road.  You find out who your real friends are in a crisis.  Or rather you find out who your friends are by who stays by your side, before, during and after.  It was great to have a lot of people around me right after Bob died, but not too many of them came around a month or two later, when I really wanted to talk to someone.

So now that I’m a couple of years removed from all of this, I can see with better clarity what is needed in regards to helping the hurting and if you’re interested, maybe you can use these suggestions the next time someone you love is in crisis.

Number one is to make sure the person knows they are not alone, for most people this means going to see them.  I know that others have expressed a fear to me, of intruding in the persons life and it may happen;  but I would rather err on the side of intrusion than let some poor soul think that no one cares. And keep it up, don’t just visit once and think that’s good enough.  Be someone they look forward to seeing—go in smiling, make them laugh; give a sympathetic ear.

There are some people who would rather be left alone, but you can still send them letters and cards expressing your concern, and again, keep that correspondence coming.

Remember them on the special and perhaps, most difficult days; birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.  If you can invite them to your house to partake in celebrations, you should; they may not come, but it’s nice to be thought of.

Pray for them and by all means,  let them know they are in your thoughts.

Do small errands for them, offer to babysit their children so they can take care of things outside the home.  Bring them a meal.  Take them out for a bite to eat.  If they are care-givers, offer to give them a break to get away for an hour or so.  Sit with them and let them talk.

Do for them what you would need if you were in their situation.  And if you have been in their situation–you should be one of the first people to contact them, because you already know what they need.

The hurting will always be with us; and undoubtedly we will be the hurting ourselves, sometimes; it’s a fact of life and not to be shunned or feared.  And while only God can bring true recovery and restoration to those in crisis, He wants us to be His hands and Feet, bringing comfort to those in need.





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