Monday was two months post wreck... and building on the post about intentional acts of kindness (see last post if you don't know what I'm talking about), I thought I'd share today seven ways in which you can help someone who has experienced crisis. You don't have to be besties with the person... a lot of these are ways in which ANYONE can reach out and show Christ's love to someone going through a hard time, and many don't cost much if anything at all. These are all specific examples of things that were or are being done for our family.
It sounds so simple... but it's true. So many times, in the past, when something difficult happened, I heard people say that they are praying for our family and it just seemed so generic to me like ok sure pray for us thanks. It seemed to me like it was the "the thing" to say when someone didn't have any other words of comfort but I never knew if they meant it or not. Were they just empty words of consolation? But the thing is... sometimes people just simply don't know what to say that would be comforting... and would I have even really found comfort in any words that were said? Example: my husband was in a horrific wreck and I had to drive an hour and a half to the hospital he was flown to, not knowing anything about what I would find out when we got there. Would he be alive? Would he be brain dead? Would he be paralyzed? Would anything anyone have said to me in that moment given me any comfort? Looking back, I don't think that they would have... but just simple "praying for you" messages started flooding in... people were texting me, and calling leaving voicemails, and private messaging me on Facebook all saying that they had heard what had happened and Jason and our family were in their prayers and you know what? I felt those prayers! Every single one of them. It may sound coo-coo but seriously the hour and a half drive was more peaceful knowing that our friends and family were praying me there. And the three weeks spent in the hospital were more bearable because when I was too sad and exhausted to beg one more prayer over my husband... our friends and family were standing in the gap and it felt like everything was going to be ok. So, #1... tell your friend you will pray for them... AND MEAN IT!
Meals can come in so many different forms.
~ Call or text and ask if you can arrange to take a hot/fresh meal on a specific night. I had friends bring meals on days when I was driving home from the hospital to spend time with the kids. I had posted on Facebook that I was going to drive home... and they met me there with a meal ready to eat. My mom and I didn't have to think about what we would fix while I was trying to spend time with my kids who were also grieving. A friend brought a meal the night Jason finally came home from the hospital... and since being home we've had a couple of friends (and even one total stranger) bring a hot meal on different nights.
~ Take pre-made meals that can easily be frozen to eat at a later time. Even still when days get busy... it's nice to have meals downstairs in our freezer that I can plan to thaw out for supper one night. It's already been prepared for me, all I have to do is plan to lay it out, cook it, and have some sides to go with. In some cases, sides have been provided too... frozen texas toast for lasagna for example.
~ Offer to go grocery shopping. The week that Jason came home from the hospital, my mom, who had been staying with us to help, fell down our stairs top to bottom backwards on her back head first. Yeah. So she went back home to Illinois to recuperate and I found myself taking care of five kids at home plus my husband in a wheelchair... by myself. The last thing I could imagine doing is getting everyone into a grocery store by myself. Nightmare city. One night... the care ministry from our church showed up with groceries! Boxes of Mac n cheese, hot dogs and buns and ketchup, and shredded cheese, canned green beans, a loaf of bread, milk, bags of apples and oranges, boxed brownie mix... and much more but you get the point. Those fresh groceries plus what we had in the freezer and leftovers in the fridge kept us going until I absolutely HAD to get everyone out.
~ Gift cards. Gift cards for places that were around the hospital were a lifesaver. Bonus if it's to a drive through so I didn't have to get out of the vehicle in my clothes I'd worn for three days straight with puffy eyes from crying every time I left the hospital. and DOUBLE BONUS if they delivered. TRIPLE BONUS to the family who gifted us a card to the coffee shop inside the hospital!! One friend even emailed me a gift card to starbucks so all I had to do when I drove through was pull the email up on my phone and they scanned my phone. So easy and since I was basically living on coffee.... so appreciated! Gift cards come in all forms and denominations and you just can never go wrong with gift cards. Actually... I take that back. You could. Obviously don't gift a card for a ritzy restaurant that's quite a driving distance away. That wouldn't be practical. And no, that didn't happen to me... I'm just saying.
3.) Offer Your Services
I have a friend in the town I live in who has a house cleaning business and she private messaged me offering to gift me a couple of free cleaning sessions. What a lifesaver! Such a good idea! If you don't own a cleaning business but know someone who does... buy a session or two that can be redeemed whenever the recipient wants. On top of taking care of five kids + Jason + myself, I'm also trying to successfully run my Etsy business and stock up for a big event I'm doing in April. Who has time to clean? Not me, that's who. If you have a certain service that you are good at or that you do as a business... offer to donate some of that service, whether it be housecleaning, legal advice, babysitting, installing hardware (Jason needed certain things changed around our house in order for him to function once he got home), a friend came to the hospital with some relaxing essential oils for me to try... the possibilities here are endless...
4.) "Hospital Survival Kit"
This is one of my favorite ideas...
If you have the money and resources, one of the things that really blessed me was a bag brought up to ICU the morning after Jason's wreck. I had posted on Facebook the night before that Jason had been in a wreck and the next morning, a friend I had gone to church with years ago showed up with this huge bag FILLED with everything imaginable that I might immediately need: Snacks, Drinks, Toothbrushes, Chapstick (everyone knows hospital air is DRY!), gum, deodorant, body wash, lotion, razors, Tylenol, two tank tops, Tissues (because, duh, I cried a lot), a couple of magazines to read, trash bags (these served SO many uses!), goodies for the kids... and a $20 bill. To this day, I use the bag that it was all in as my purse. It's a nice canvas bag and every time I look at it I'm reminded of that awesome act of love. A few things that I might add to this list if I were to do this idea in the future for someone else would be a package of socks and a cheap pair of house shoes.
The thing is this: the night of the wreck when I had gotten a call that Jason hadn't showed up to pick up the guy he carpools with and no one could reach him by phone, I got so worried that I quickly needed to get the kids in the car and go looking for him. I had no way of knowing I'd drive up on the wreck and go straight from there to the hospital an hour and a half away! I definitely didn't have a bag packed with basic toiletries so it was nice to have those things provided for me, with a hug, the next morning.
which brings me to #5...
5.) See a Need and Meet it
In my haste to get out the door, I couldn't find my car keys and I threw everything out of my diaper bag looking for them. Literally the only thing I (thank God) didn't throw out was my wallet. When I got to the hospital, I had nothing. NOTHING. I didn't have any diapers, I didn't have any wipes, I didn't have any breast pads. But I had our three week old baby with me. Luckily, my sister in law stopped at a Wal Mart on her way to meet us at the hospital and was able to provide me with a package of diapers and wipes. A friend showed up at the hospital the next day with breast pads, menstrual pads, and gatorades, and a bag of chocolate. Even when Jason got moved over to the rehabilitation center, people were making sure our baby was taken care of. We had more diapers and wipes provided for us and also a Rock n Play loaned by a staff member for the baby to sleep in while we stayed there with Jason.
On the home front... there were things happening at school that I had just plain couldn't do. The older kids had Christmas parties at school where they needed to provide a small present and bring a snack and obviously I couldn't do those things but other moms stepped in to help out without me having to think about it and ask... which was such a blessing to me.
Use your head, try to put yourself in the other person's shoes and think of some things you would need or appreciate. I promise you, you are thinking clearer than them and they will probably need it and appreciate it.
Visiting costs nothing at all except time and maybe some gas money but means SO MUCH. Hospital walls get boring to stare at. It's weird when you leave hospital walls to see that life has gone on without you. Visiting people in the hospital makes them feel special, loved, thought of, and needed/wanted. Nine times out of ten, there is something else you could do while you're visiting to help out. For instance: many times, I had people just hold the baby so I could go pee without having to lug the baby in her carseat to the bathroom with me... cause who wants to do that? Or I'd ask if they could hold the baby so I could step out of the room for a few minutes, regroup, and get a coffee downstairs.
Once we had some special visitors show up and say "we are here to take inventory of what you need." They noticed I was attempting to sleep on a severely uncomfortable cot with a half inch thick plastic mattress..... so they went and bought me one of those egg carton memory foam mattress toppers which did wonders for my back! Sometimes you don't know what someone will need until you just show up to find out.
a few tips about visiting:
~ Always call/text beforehand to make sure it'll be a good time to visit. There were times, Jason had visitors show up at what turned out to be a bad time (he was in surgery, etc.) and had they known, they could have arranged to come at a different time. Also... in ICU rooms there is usually a visitor limit. They don't like those rooms to get crowded in case of emergencies so it's best to stagger visitors out so everyone doesn't all show up at the same time and again, calling or texting beforehand would help with that.
~Don't ever just walk into a hospital room without first knocking to announce your presence. I think that people think that because hospital doors don't have locks, it's an open invitation to just walk in when they get there, but there were several times that Jason wasn't presentable for visitors and a simple warning would have been nice. Sometimes you might have to wait outside the door for a minute or two... and that's ok.
~ Don't stop visiting after they are discharged. Make house visits too. Even the walls at home start to get boring to stare at and you can only watch so much TV before getting completely bored out of your mind. Continue to make your friend feel loved and not forgotten by visiting them even after they've been sent home from the hospital. And maybe call on your way to see if they'd like you to pick a cold/hot drink up. Sonic and/or Starbucks drinks in the middle of the day go a long way to boost spirits (or in my case, a McDonald's half cut tea)
7.) Gift Cards
Gift cards to places like Wal Mart/Target or gas station gift cards were huge lifesavers to me. With all of the back and forth traveling I did, I burned a lot of gas! And as Jason started coming around and wanted to feel more like a human being... and especially when he got moved to rehab... we had to go get clothes for him because the clothes he'd been wearing the night of the wreck were a.) dirty b.) bloody and c.) cut off of him. Even his underwear.
I'm sure I'll think of more things later and maybe come back to edit this post... but these are specific and EASY ways you could help a friend in crisis. If you have found yourself in a crisis situation and can think of something that would be helpful to add to this list... would you please leave it in the comments?? Thank you!