Three weeks ago, I got an email from a friend. He was introducing me to a local leader in the arts community in Ypsi. She had just been diagnosed with cancer. He'd been meaning to introduce us for a while - and was sad this was the compelling reason for finally sitting down to make the email introduction.
On Monday, I had a call with an Engage member who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to tell me personally so that I'd know why she'd be missing from the social interactions that Engage facilitates and have been so meaningful to her.
Yesterday morning, over a coffee conversation, I was telling my daughter's story to a local policy leader and found out that he'd lost his own infant child years ago.
Not an hour after that conversation yesterday, I was in the ER with my daughter who was experiencing chest pain and difficulty breathing. All that fear comes rushing back...it was allergies. She's fine. She will continue to be fine.
But what do you do for someone when things aren't fine?
There's an article I thought I'd share with you all about Ring Theory. It's been my preferred resource for those who want to know "how to not say the wrong thing" or what to DO when they find out someone that they know or are close to is going through something traumatic.
My recommendations are usually as follows:
Recognize which ring you sit in and act accordingly: "Comfort in. Dump out."
Be specific in your offer for help.
It is hard to ask for or accept help. It's your job to decide what you can offer of yourself that is sustainable, and make it easier for the person closer to the trauma to accept help.
Gather takeout menus from their favorite places to eat. Let them circle the dishes they like for the family. This way when someone asks if they can bring them anything, they can just hand them the restaurant of choice and let their support system go shopping.
Do you like to prep food? Go shopping for fresh produce, get a key to the house, and pre-wash, slice and put into ziplock baggies things like carrots, cheese, nuts. Easy snacks they can take anywhere and eat with one hand.
Do you LIKE to do laundry? Help them get over the fact that you will see their underwear. Again, get a key to the house so you can wash and fold. Clean clothes in their own washing machine and dryer will give a cancer fighter confidence that they are clean when germs and infections are a really scary thing.
Regardless of how financially secure the family is... have someone set up a funding page like GoFundMe. People want to help. They need to help to feel better, and if they can't give time or energy, they will want to give money and the family will have expenses in the LONG run.
Or, just show up with coffee and force them to go for a walk - not because you want an update but so that they have an accountability partner to make sure they step away and breathe. Your job is only to listen.