A teenage daughter in one of our congregation's families attempted suicide recently. The family is well-known and loved, and I am sure many wonder, as I do, "What can I do? How can I help and be supportive"
Ways to Help
We help, it seems to me, when we jump in and do the practical, hands-on things needed to ease day-to-day responsibilities and stress.
* Bring a meal.
* Do laundry.
* Buy groceries.
* Mow the lawn/shovel snow.
* Babysit. Plan a special event for children in the family.
* Fill their car with gas.
* Be a driver for appointments.
* Clean the house, take out garbage, change beds.
* Walk the dog.
* Make and return phone calls and emails.
You get the idea. These are tasks that are a normal part of life and if they don't get done, life gets more complicated, overwhelming.
Ways to Support
When you are helpful, you are also supportive, but I think "support" is more a response of the heart. Support may be lies tangible, but no less effective. Here are some ways to show support:
* Set up a prayer group. Add the person to a prayer list. Share only as much information as the person permits.
* Send cards, postcards, letters. Yes, emails are great, too, but how loving and caring is it to receive a note you can hold in your hand?
* Give a gift certificate for a massage or Reiki session. Manicure or facial.
* Offer hugs.
* Plan diversion activities--watch a funny movie together, go for a walk or bike ride, gather friends for a dinner out (or bring dinner in).
The best way to be supportive is to listen.
Listen, listen, listen.
A Gentle Reminder
When I was recovering from surgery for cancer many years ago, one of my husband's colleagues called me. The phone call from her was very nice, but she kept pressing me. "How are you?" she said in a concerned voice. When I replied I was doing well, getting better every day, she continued to press. "No, really, how are you?" I know she had good intentions, but I did not know her. It was my prerogative to decide what to share and with whom.
Ask and offer to listen, but pay attention to cues.
Help Me Live, 20 Things People With Cancer Want You to Know by Lori Hope Even though the title indicates that cancer is the focus, I recommend this book for a variety of crises and challenging personal situations.
In what ways have you been helped and supported? Do you know someone who needs help and support? I would love to know.