I’ve always been the type of person that had absolutely no idea what to do or say when a loved one was hurting. I’ve always felt absolutely useless in these situations and as if I needed to step aside and let an adult handle it. Here are some things that stuck with me during a time I needed help:
Don’t try to fill the silence.
My best friend once said, “There’s not anything you can say to make it better, but there’s a lot you can say to make it worse.”
Just let her be sad, hurt, angry, etc. It’s kind of selfish to fill silence just because you’re uncomfortable anyway, right?
Buy a houseplant.
Even if a mom thinks she has a black thumb, houseplants are fun and there’s a lot of them out there that are hard to kill. Even if it does die, it could be something fun and distracting, in the meantime.
Peace lilies are beautiful plants for a mom that is going through a loss. They’re easy to take care of and are known for lasting for years and years.
I dated someone once who brought me one of these plants after I was sandwiched between two cars at a red light. He said it reminded him of my eyes. I thought it was sweet that he was talking about my green eyes… Turns out, he meant the purple in the center because I had two black eyes.
Text a prayer to her instead of saying “I’m praying for you.”
She hears “I’m praying for you” all the time. Take an extra step.
Don’t say “Kids are resilient.”
Who the heck said this ages ago and why is it such a common thing to say? Kids are people too, not collateral damage.
Instead of asking “How can I help?” here are some more direct approaches:
- Can I bring you lunch sometime this week?
- Just send a gift card for takeout one night.
- Help with things that require thought. If it’s October, send her pics of Halloween costumes you can pick up for her kids, while you’re already getting a costume for your kids.
- Just plan something. One of my friends hired a sitter for me once and took me shopping. She planned the whole thing and I had to do nothing.
- Offer to help get organized. If she lost a parent, offer to help find a caterer. If she’s getting divorced, offer to help research lawyers, new car insurance, rentals, etc.
Don’t say “That can wait.”
The bottom line is the laundry and dishes can’t wait. Someone has to do them and it’s really easy to say they can wait when you aren’t the one waking up to them the next day.
Don’t say “I’m not choosing sides.”
I mean this when it comes to family fallouts and divorce. Lysa Turkeurst said it best when she explained, “This isn’t a spectator sport.”
Don’t say “It could be worse.”
Um, no shit.
Keep trying to check-in.
I would rather be the person that continually, gently checks in on a friend when she is hurt, even if she isn’t responding, rather than someone who gives up after the first failed attempt. When a mom has something serious going on that everyone knows about, chances are her phone is blowing up.