When illness or tragedy strike it is easy to feel helpless? I have a few experiences that might offer some ideas of how to give comfort and assistance.

Over fifteen years ago now, a family I knew had a young son who was diagnosed with cancer. It was such a difficult and trying time for them, their extended family and those of us in the neighborhood. I remember wanting to help so badly, but not sure what to do.  After prying a little, I found out that the mom did not have the means to buy anything to eat while she was at hospital during the stays when her boy was having treatments. I packed a bag of food that could be warmed in the microwave, or eaten as it was, but none that required refrigeration. Mainly protein foods and a few treats.    One particular time that I was asked to watch her other children when she had to take her sick son to his doctors appointments, I arranged with other women to come in to help clean and tidy up a bit, as well as doing special crafts with the kids while she was away. It was our way of showing love and support through their difficult time.

Our family has not been spared. Awhile back Stan my husband, contracted a staff infection which almost took his life, and made for a very, very difficult three months. At the same time our daughter had health issues also. Because of caring family and friends, I had support. I am still so indebted for their generosity. 

Last year my grandson was in the hospital for several days which was quite scary and difficult. And now, his sister, my granddaughter, is spending time in the NICU.  Tawni’s parents are so caring and helpful; they are truly a blessing to us all.

 When we had the other children, Stan took the boys to Sam’s Club for lunch, then grocery shopping (I was cooking and preparing for 2nd Sunday Dinner). They had a blast and he let them each choose their favorite match-box car to bring home.  I gave them washable markers and each a toilet paper roll to make their own car ‘power station’.

I had on ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, the old one with Ann Margaret; here they are dancing to the song Birdie sings when the whole town swoons. They didn’t understand, but thought it was great fun to fall on the ground right along with them.  Laughter is a wonderful release from the stress of the circumstances for ALL ages.
kids 1
Uncle Dallin had them help clean up, and they love doing anything with himkids 2Help the other family members have as much normalcy as possible and to keep them busy as appropriate. This will provide a way for even little ones to feel somewhat in control.

Getting ready to come home from the hospital!baby 8After taking baby CPR classes at the hospital, learning the oxygen machine and other devices to help our little girl stay alive, Derek remarked: “Who said kids don’t come with instructions.”photo 6

It seems if we live long enough we will have family and friends who will face challenges of some sort that will require help.

I have complied a little list of ideas that might be useful if you are ever in the situation of wondering how to help and be most useful:

  • Keep in mind that when a person, or family are in a crisis, they may have much different priorities then before. Be sensitive to their new situation and that ‘normal’ things may not be a current concern.
  • LISTEN, do not judge or give unwanted advice. Sometimes the other person just wants to talk and get it out in the open, though it may not be how they really feel. Be kind about not repeating or passing on anything that is best kept between trusted friends.
  • Offer to clean the house or gift a professional house cleaning service.  Do not just offer, be proactive.
  • Sometimes when asking what you can do to help is almost more stressful because the person/family may not be able to process everything that does need to be done – the real necessities. Possibly arranging to pick up other children for school, sports, scouts, etc. would be a great relief.
  •  It is critical that the family members have a way to recharge and have the energy to face the ordeal at hand. By arranging for the parents/care giver to have the opportunity to exercise, get sleep, have meals brought in, babysitting other children could make all the difference.
  • Offering to stay with a child or family member for a few hours at the hospital to give the adult(s) time to leave for a bit would allow them to take a moment for them self.  
  • A gift certificate for a massage, a facial, a haircut, a manicure, a pedicure, a movie, favorite meal, etc., would be so appreciated for them to use while a trusted friend or family member sat with the sick/hospitalized patient

More ideas:

  • Provide rides to and from school,  or activities for other family members. Also rides to the hospital so they children can visit the parent(s).
  • Take, or send, a care package to the sick patient. Part of this could also be gift cards to local restaurants or even away to purchase food at the hospital for the parents/adults.
  • If it is holiday time, offer to shop for them, or even arrange a ‘Secret Santa’ for the family to take the pressure off them financially, as well as the overwhelming time it can be.
  • If it is another child’s birthday time, offering to hold the party would be a tremendous burden eased for the parent(s) so the child does not feel left out or ‘on-the-back-burner’ so to speak.
  • Grocery shop for family. If the funds are tight for them, you might want to purchase the necessities.
  •  Do, or arrange for, housecleaning or yard work
  • If they have pets, help or provide a source to feed and walk them.
  • Take siblings out for a fun activity or babysit
  • Send a card, or an e-greeting  with the site address which connects families and friends during medical challenges
  • If it is overwhelming to keep family and friends up to date of the patients treatment and circumstance, offer to keep up a blog or even Facebook page for them; with their approval of every post/entry.
  • Help the other family members feel useful. It empowers them and takes their mind off the situation at hand.

Do you have any suggestions of what you have done, or what service has been given to you in time of need? Please leave a comment for us to share.

Copyright A Mother’s Shadow, 2014

Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today.