18th Jun2011

If there’s anything I can do…

by Dutchcloggie

So many lovely people have offered their help and time to me. All I need to do is ask.

All I need to do?

In your daily life, how many times do you actually ask someone for help? Not very often. And in times like this, you’ll ask even less. Because you don’t want to be a burden. Because you don’t want to make people sad. Because you think you really should be able to do these simple things yourself.

If I need to ‘just ask’ for help, it means I have to tell people I need help multiple times in a week. Think for a minute how uncomfortable that would make you feel if you had to do that. Admit that you need help with simple, daily tasks. Not once, but multiple times per week, to many different people. Would you do it? Probably not.

The only people you would feel comfortable with, to do such a thing is your closest friends. So if you ask for help at all, it will be the same small group of close friends. Because they are the only ones who you feel able to show how hard things are at the moment. How even caring about the washing up is a big job. How just doing your shopping is an emotional nightmare. You just don’t share that with people you have not seen in a long time. And so you then start worrying about relying on those few close friends too much. So you stop asking. And people start thinking you are doing better. Even when you are not. In fact, things are only getting harder.

But you don’t think you can ask that friend who lives an hour/ 2 hours driving away if he/she could please come over to help with your shopping. Because that might be a burden for them.

This is not to say I am ungrateful. Until now, I too would have said: “If there is ANYTHING I can do to help, just let me know.”

But now I know that is not helpful at all. Because I won’t ask. And you will wait for my call. And when that call does not come, you will think I am doing fine. Or that I don’t need your help or friendship.

Don’t wait to be asked. Be proactive and think: what can I do to help. And then call me. Or email me with a concrete offer of help.

Going to the shop. I don’t care about eating at the moment so I don’t buy anything decent to eat. So maybe you can offer to come to my house, make a shopping list with me and go shopping together. But be prepared for tears as shopping for a new lifestyle as a widow is gut-wrenchingly painful
Cooking dinner. See above. Maybe you can offer to join me for dinner where we cook together.
Cleaning my house. I have not cleaned it properly for the past 10 months, having been otherwise engaged. So pick up the phone and let me know which dates you are free to come and help me.
Going for a drink/lunch/coffee/tea/movie/game of bowling. Just pick up the phone and see if I want to come along. But please make sure I am not the gooseberry in a group filled with couples. In a few months’ time, I will be ok as the only single person, but right now, it just hurts too much.
Going for drinks/dinner/tea/bowling/movie with friends? Why not all come my way instead of asking me to come to you?
Offer to help me get sorted on the course I need to do in Maths & English
Offer to help me with my university application process. Just come to my house, sit down with me and go through the paperwork & application. I might even make you a cup of tea.
Do you go to the gym regularly? Maybe I can come with you. You could tell me a date & time and come and pick me up.
Talk about Jane. It is OK to cry. Both for you and for me. Spending time alone means I don’t talk about Jane much. And that hurts. I want to talk about the things she used to do. I want to cry over her. I want you not to mind if I do. I want you not to feel awkward. I don’t need hugging all the time when I cry. It is perfectly OK for me to be in my chair crying and for you to be on the sofa. Tears will just be part of the conversation.

But most importantly: if you offer and I say no, don’t think you don’t need to offer again. Don’t think “Well, I asked, she said no, so I won’t ask again.” Because sometimes, just like ‘normal’ people, I might just feel like curling up in a ball on the sofa and shut the world out.

Asking for help is the hardest thing to do. And to suggest someone should ask for help at the hardest time in their lives is asking the impossible. It should be the other way around.

If there is anything you want to help me with, just let me know.

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