But What If I’m the One Hurting?

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Last week we talked about how to help the hurting. I threw out some good, practical ideas for people to help the ones they love through a difficult time. “But,” you may ask, “What if it’s me who’s hurting?” First of all, friend, I want you to know that I see you. Second, I want you to know that I know how difficult it can be to ask for, or even accept, help. I’ve shared before how I like for everybody to think that I’m super strong and I have it all together and I can handle anything, even immense hardship, all on my own. But dear one, that is not the way that it is meant to be.

Because of my physical condition during and after losing Judah, I had to learn how to accept help. I had no other option. And. It. Was. So. Crazy. Hard. I don’t like sitting around and I don’t like needing help, and I had to do both. I get my sense of determination (I guess that’s what we’ll call it) from my dad. I specifically remember shortly after losing Judah that it was my dad’s day to “watch me,” and I pushed my limits with him. He’s a lot more soft spoken with me than my mom, mother-in-law, sisters, husband, etc. and I thought I could get away with doing a little bit more when he was around. By about the second or third time he said, “baby, I know how hard it is to just sit around, but I really think you need to just sit and rest” I gave it up. I could tell it just about killed him to have to tell me to sit, and I couldn’t push him any longer. So I sat. I rested. And I learned a really good, hard lesson. You want to know what that lesson was? I’m gonna put it in all caps so that it will hopefully get through. Are you ready?

WHEN YOU’RE HURTING, THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU REALLY, TRULY, HONESTLY WANT TO HELP YOU!!!!

There. I even put it in bold writing and italicized it for you. But it’s true. When you’re hurting, the people who love you really do want to help. The problem is, sometimes it’s hard to know how to help you. The other problem is, sometimes you don’t allow them to help you. Can I let you in on something else? Everybody benefits when you let them in, and let them help. End of story.

After losing Judah there was a time that I was sitting on the couch, resting (because that was literally all I could do), and my sisters were running to the store. I couldn’t go with them – because resting – so they asked if I needed anything. Anything at all. I told them, no, I didn’t need anything. But still they persisted. They even started throwing out ridiculous suggestions. It was in the midst of this that I realized, “You know, they see me sitting here, miserable and sad, and they probably just feel helpless. They probably wish there was just something they could do. If I give them something to get for me, it’s probably going to make them feel better. And it might actually make me feel a bit better too.” I did need mascara, so I eventually gave in and asked them to bring some of that back with them. Guess what? They got this light in their eyes. They visibly perked up, and said, “Ok! Mascara! We’ll bring some mascara back for you!” They were so happy to bring that small little thing back for me! And I was really happy for them to bring it back to me. After that incident, it was a little bit easier for me to let people help. I tried to think of it from their perspective, remembering times that I watched the people I love who were hurting. I remembered feeling desperate to do anything to help lighten their load. I remembered a time that a family friend reached out and asked if I could put together the food for the viewing for one of their relatives. I felt so relieved that I could help in such a real, practical way! I realized that when I let others help me, it blessed us both.

When we lost the twins, I even went beyond letting people help me, to asking people to help me. This was a huge step for me. The week we lost the twins was the week of Thanksgiving. We have so many fun traditions that specific week, and we had had a whole lot of fun things planned. I had been so excited for our week off. Once we left the ultrasound knowing that we had lost the twins, I knew I couldn’t hold up my end of those traditions. It was so hard to let go of so many things at once. I had a D&C the day after our ultrasound and my body was not in good shape. I was contracting like you wouldn’t believe and still bleeding a lot. Again, I was told to take it easy. My sisters brought over a basket of Christmas crafts and a really cute, comfy tank top for me to wear so that I could sit on the couch and still feel like I was doing something along the lines of what we had planned. (In case you hadn’t noticed, I have the most amazing sisters). I appreciated it so much, and it sparked a hope in me that I could maybe still do some of those things we had planned. The best and easiest way to do that was through Facebook. Oh. My. Goodness. You guys. The response I got was absolutely overwhelming. I was floored. Again, it was another reassurance that when you’re hurting, the people who love you really want to do something to help you.

Every Thanksgiving morning, I make homemade cinnamon rolls. I started the tradition the first Thanksgiving that Blake and I had as a married couple. There’s never been a year where I haven’t made them. That year would have been a first. It broke my heart knowing I couldn’t make them that year. After giving it some thought, I took a deep breath, swallowed my pride, and took a picture of the recipe (because I was making them before Pinterest), and posted on facebook saying that I know people were crazy busy, but if there was even the slightest chance that somebody could make them for us and deliver them at whatever time, it would be the biggest blessing. I had so many people reach out to me! People who don’t bake, or didn’t have the time to bake, offered to pick up store bought ones or to make the kind from a can. I would have been so happy even for that! I felt incredibly loved knowing that people were so willing to take time out of their already busy holiday schedules to fulfill a want (not even a need) for me. One dear friend did end up making the recipe. She delivered them the night before Thanksgiving along with some gifts. “These were made with love and a lot of tears” she told me. Even as I type this out and remember that night, her sweet words, and loving heart, I’m tearing up. People are such a blessing.

Another silly request I had was for a wheelchair. My sisters and Mom and I have made a tradition of going out on Black Friday every year. We like to go a little later at night after the crowds have died down, and it’s so much fun! It’s honestly one of our favorite nights of the year. If I didn’t have a wheelchair, my doctor said I couldn’t go. Again, I went to facebook, asking if anybody had one we could borrow. Again, the response I got was absolutely overwhelming. One friend, who lives far away, and I hadn’t seen (or really even talked to) for years messaged me. She said that she and her husband would be blessed to pay the rental fee for a wheelchair. Honestly, I cried as I told my husband of their generous offer. She said to me, “Please let me know how my husband and I can help. Mean it. I know God has a plan for you all and your beautiful girls, but please promise you’ll let us know how we can help!” Once again, the people who love you want to help you when you are hurting. We got the wheelchair. Some friends from church had one that they dropped off for us earlier in the week. I was able to go shopping with my mom and my sisters. My cousin, who often needs a wheelchair herself, actually came down to shop with us and she brought her wheelchair just in case! I told her I wanted to be wheeled side by side so we could hold hands in the store. 😁 Turns out she didn’t need hers that night and she actually pushed me for a good portion of the time we were out. She was, by far, the best driver. I’ve pushed her a number of times, and I think I can say that it felt good for both of us to have the roles reversed. She may not even know it, but she offered me a special comfort that night. I was blessed beyond belief that she was able to make it out to spend some time with us.

Now, I say all this with a word of caution. Please do not use and abuse the people who love you. I don’t want anybody taking advantage of anybody else’s generosity. If you need help, please ask for it. If people offer to help you, please take them up on it. But also, please realize that there will come a time when you need to start helping yourself. Give yourself time, let yourself grieve, let yourself heal, let those you love help you, and then take a deep breath, and start easing your way into routine again. There will be days down the road when you need help again. Days that are hard and you need someone to lean on. That’s ok. Reach out again. Or let them reach out to you. Shortly after having Fletcher, I posted a picture on social media about how I feel so blessed to have 4 sweet babies, but there are days when I feel like I have 4 babies and it can be so hard. I wasn’t reaching out for help, I was only trying to be honest and real. I got a lot of messages that day from friends asking how they could help. One friend simply told me that her husband would be dropping dinner off at our house that night when he got off of work. Everything in me wanted to say, “no, that’s ok, I can handle it on my own.” But I didn’t. Instead, I said, “THANK YOU!” and we enjoyed some really delicious Chinese food that night. I didn’t have to cook or clean and my family was fed. And you know what? I’ve been able to bring them a meal at a time when making a meal wasn’t easy for them. So let’s all agree to be givers, and accepters. Let’s give when it’s needed, and let’s accept when it’s needed.

I cannot stress it enough: When you’re hurting, the people who love you really do want to help you. And sometime down the road, somebody will need you to help them. Remember this time, when you were the one hurting, and return the favor. Let’s do this thing together. Let’s allow ourselves to help and be helped. If we all did, it would be a better world to live in, don’t ya think?

How to Help The Hurting

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Ya’ll. Today was a day. I was feeling really good and “on it” this morning, until my 3 year old decided to test out a clamp on her tongue. I would go into detail, except that it would make some of you queasy. Let’s just say I called her doctor’s office and for the second time ever they said to me, “Do you just want to be on your way?” We always, always get seen the same day if we need it, but they will schedule us in at a certain time. She’s going to be fine, tongues have an amazing ability to heal themselves, but she was only allowed to eat cold, soft things today. Tomorrow we can start weaning her back onto solid foods. Needless to say, I’m wiped. So, I thought tonight would be a good time to share practical ways to help when someone you love (or even someone you hardly know) is hurting. Now, while my main focus is for baby loss, this goes for anyone facing anything hard.

It can be crazy overwhelming when someone we love goes through a difficult time. You usually want to help in some way or another, but sometimes a meal just doesn’t seem like “enough”. “Hey, I’m super sorry that you miscarried/your grandparent passed away/your husband is sick/fill in the blank, here’s a meal” can feel, at least to the giver, a bit underwhelming. Believe me, I’ve been there. Before we lost Judah, I would feel so helpless when a tragedy struck a friend or family member. There were times I didn’t know what to do or how to help, so I would say a heartfelt, “I’m so sorry, I’m praying for you!” and then do nothing else. I think the tendency when we want to help somebody is to have the feeling of “go big or go home.” Before Judah, I would get asked to make a meal, and if I couldn’t make a salad, and a side, and a main course, and dessert, and include plates, and napkins, and silverware, I felt like I maybe just couldn’t do it at that time. Going through a tragedy myself, I’ve learned so much. Most of all, I’ve learned that oftentimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact. People don’t need for you to go big or go home. They need to know they’re not alone. They need to know they have a village surrounding them that can help pick up the slack, whatever that may look like.

Listed are just some ideas of really practical ways to help someone who is hurting:

  • Make them a meal. The tendency is to make dinner. Dinner is AWESOME. I love dinner. I’m a huge fan of dinner. I will take dinner any day of the week. That being said, there are 2 other meals every day. Maybe consider offering to bring breakfast or lunch (because let’s be honest, lunch is the worst). I love when people ask what meal they can bring to me. One of my friends consistently brings us Panera bagels and cream cheese every time we need meals. Now that’s a true gift!
  • A few notes on bringing a meal: Make it as disposable as possible. Gladware, freezer bags, aluminum pans, etc. Sometimes there’s really not another option (and that’s ok), but the last thing you want your friend to worry about is getting your dish back to you. Other options are to ask ahead of time if they have a large tupperware bowl or something you can transfer the food to when you get to their house, and then transfer it for them. I was always relieved when somebody asked me to transfer food instead of leaving a dish for me to give back. Also, be sure to check about allergies and likes/dislikes. Every family is different, and it always feels good when somebody goes the extra mile and asks about those things.
  • Give gift cards. If making a meal isn’t your thing, that’s ok! Mail a gift card! After we lost the twins, we had gift cards coming in for months. It’s amazing what a huge blessing those things are! Plus, our kids thought it was super fancy any time we would order food in.
  • Send pizza. Or Chinese. Or Jimmy Johns. If you can’t cook, or just don’t want to – have somebody else do it for you! There’s another family that we always exchange Wing Stop with. “You need a meal? What do you want from Wing Stop?” It’s become a fun (and delicious) tradition.
  • Coffee. Bring them coffee. If that isn’t possible, send them a gift card for Starbucks or another local coffee shop. Did you know that you can e-mail somebody a gift card through the Starbucks app? It’s so simple and easy.
  • Bring them dessert, or a favorite food (cheese fries, anyone?). I once had friends call me to say they were on their way to see me with cheesecake. It made enough of an imprint that I’m telling you about it now.
  • If you don’t want to bring them dessert, have some sent to their house. When we lost the twins, the dance studio that the girls go to sent us specialty cookies with a card attached. The girls felt so special and loved (and I was floored by their thoughtfulness).
  • Buy packs of disposable plates, bowls, plasticware, etc and drop it off. Nobody wants to do dishes anyway, but especially when going through a difficult time.
  • Make them a freezer meal. I cannot express to you how essential freezer meals were for us during any difficult season. There is something so wonderful about being able to pull a home cooked meal out of the freezer to make on a day that is especially hard.
  • Offer to go to the grocery store for them. My mother-in-law doesn’t like to cook, and she knew we had eaten out a lot after losing the twins. When she asked how she could help, I asked if she could buy us some basic groceries and things to eat for lunch. I didn’t even have the presence of mind to think of a list for her – and boy did she deliver! She got us all kinds of easy to make foods that we all loved. It was the best thing she could have done for us at that time. On a smaller scale, we also had some friends offer to pick up some milk for us before they came over. And that was a huge blessing too! I cannot stress enough that no act is too small.
  • I think you get the gist with the food-related ideas. Basically, food is always a good idea, and it’s hard to go wrong. Moving on from food-related ideas:
  • Bring then flowers. I love flowers. They always brighten my day!
  • Bring or send a plant they can keep inside for a bit and then plant outside in remembrance of their loved one. We’ve had friends bring us hydrangeas, and potted plants. The school where my husband teaches once a week sent us a live advent Christmas tree. The girls got to use it during the Christmas season, and then we were able to plant it outside to remember the twins by.
  • Send them to get their nails done- or offer to come over and paint them yourself!
  • Show up with their favorite movie and sit with them on the couch and watch it together.
  • Ask if they want to talk about it. If they do, let them talk as long as they want, and try not to interrupt. Let them lead the conversation, and follow appropriately. If they don’t want to talk, tell them it’s perfectly fine, and then move right along.
  • Get them a massage, or if you actually know what you’re doing, offer to give them one. I have a friend and a cousin who are both excellent in this field. Their offers to bring out the oils and massage chairs were wonderful!
  • Make a “relaxation” basket for them. Some family members gifted me with a basket that contained bath salts, bath bombs, chocolate, soft, warm, cozy socks, a candle…it was just what my body needed.
  • Crafting can be really therapeutic. If your loved one is crafty, send them a crafting box filled with something they can make. My sister gave us a box filled with stuff to make Christmas crafts. It felt so good to put my mind on something like that.
  • If you see something in a store and it makes you think of your loved one, grab it and give it to them when you see them next
  • Pray for them. If they need it, and are ok with it, pray with them.
  • If you hear a song or read a verse that you think will bring them comfort, pass it along.
  • Offer to help clean their house.
  • A hand written note -or even a well timed text- can change somebody’s day.
  • Buy them some new, comfy clothes. My friend used to sell LuLaRoe, and when we lost the twins we had dropped off on our doorstep a gift that included a really comfy dress and a card signed by our Bible study group. I myself didn’t even think how much it would mean to be able to look cute and feel so comfy during such a difficult time.
  • If the person you’re wanting to help has kids, think about them. This season is hard on them too, and it is an extra special blessing to watch them be loved on:
  • After a friend lost a baby, our kids remembered how hard it was to lose the twins, and (all on their own) they went through their toys and chose ones that they loved to give to their friends. To this day, those kids treasure the special gifts their friends gave to them during a hard time.
  • Offer to watch their kids for a bit so they can rest
  • Bring over activities. It’s so refreshing for them to have something to do. Options include (but are not limited to), coloring books, puzzles, paint, books, blocks, Play-dough, or even a movie!
  • A wrapped gift is always welcomed by little hands!

This list is long, but there are still so many more things you can do to help! Honestly, any offering is a sign that they are not alone and that they are well loved. Get creative with it, and above all, just do something. Pick something from the list, figure out something on your own, either is fine! Trust me, your efforts will speak volumes. And something little is always better than nothing.

A note about helping the hurting. It can seriously be uncomfortable to ask for (or even accept) help. Sometimes the best thing to do, is to just do it anyway. I’m not talking about barging into somebody’s home and stepping over boundaries, but doing things within reason. If they say no to a meal, send them a gift card. If they say no to your offer to help clean their house, next time you’re there-grab the broom and start sweeping, or buy them disposable dinnerware. Things like that. Read the room. 😅

One more important note before I part with you. Remember the days that are hard. Everybody wants to help in the midst of a hard time, but few remember when those hard days come again. It means more to me than I can say when somebody texts me during the month of May and says something like, “Missing Judah with you today.” One friend brought coffee from my favorite coffee place (Brickhouse, in case you’re wondering), along with some homemade banana bread and a note that said, “Happy Birthday Judah” on the day I delivered him. You guys. There are no words for such acts of kindness. You honestly don’t even have to remember exact dates. Weeks or months are perfectly acceptable. If you need to, mark it on the calendar with a reminder so you can remember. But also, it honestly doesn’t even need to be in the right time frame. Sometimes people will tell me, “I think of you and your sweet angel babies all the time.” And it makes me feel so good that they are remembered by more than just me. So if there’s a particular day you are remembering a lost one-let your friend know it. Send them a simple text, “Hey friend, thinking about your (fill in the blank) today. I love you” is all it takes. If it was somebody you had fond memories with, maybe add that in, “I always loved the stories they used to tell” or whatever it may be.

I hope this list helps you to help the hurting. Please comment below with any additional ideas you may have-or share a way somebody helped that was a blessing! I would love to hear from you! And remember: It’s often the little things that make the biggest impact!