One of the things we hear a lot lately is “let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” It’s really nice to know that people are available. While I know that no one else really knows what I am going through in the same sense that I don’t know what my husband is going through, it’s encouraging to be reminded that others are available. But the question always run into is “available for what?” I don’t think there is anything anyone can do that will make things better. I mean, sure, I love seeing friends. That is one of the most helpful things is just some quality time with people I love who love me.
So what can you do?
Doc and I were talking about this the other day. There are things that I think people who have experienced any major life change, whether it be loss or something else that is stressful, need to be asked. We ask each other these questions to make sure that we don’t miss anything while being wrapped in our own grief.
Saying “are you ok” or “how are you doing” isn’t really specific enough. People need to have hard questions asked. If someone says “how are you doing?” I don’t know how comfortable they really are with the truth. It’s also really easy for me to say that I’m doing okay, or coping, or making it through each day and avoid talking about anything “real”. You want to make sure someone is really ok? Then ask them these questions.
1.) Are you sleeping at night? – Sleep deprivation leads to crazy. It can make people behave erratically, increase anxiety and depression, cause people to have even more difficulty controlling their emotions and coping with what they feel. If someone isn’t sleeping, this gives you an open door to talk about real issues. “What is making it difficult to sleep? Are you having trouble relaxing? Are you having trouble turning your mind off?” You can talk about things like getting a massage or exercising or even establishing a routine before bed to help them out. Offer your ear if they can’t sleep.
2.) Are you eating enough?/Are you over eating? – Stress eating…man, does junk food make you feel bloated and sleepy and worse? Because it makes me feel that way. When I’m really sad or stressed I forget to eat. Not eating = low energy and grumpiness. Sometimes a simple reminder that I need to pay attention helps.
3.) Have you thought about hurting yourself? – This is a hard stinking question to ask someone. BUT people need to be asked. What if they are and NO ONE HAS ASKED THEM? I will say that NO ONE but my husband asked me this question. My son died. Someone should ask me this. I think people assume that someone’s friend or someone’s family is paying attention. Don’t assume. Ask. I promise the directness is important. That said…don’t freak out. I haven’t thought about it.
4.) Have you been able to get out of your house much? – For me right now, being reclusive is a defense mechanism. I have to push to make myself get out. It is extremely helpful for me emotionally to spend time with friends or family or to be outside of my home among people. Pulling away from people and wanting some time to yourself aren’t the same thing. It’s nice to be encouraged to remember that I should go take a walk or do something on days it is easier to try to stay in pajamas and watch TV all day instead of getting a move on.
5.) What have you done to take care of yourself? – It’s just important to ask. In my case, I spent so long taking care of someone else that learning how to take care of myself again is a baby step process. I forget that I can do that.