A serious-ish issue

A while ago a friend of mine was going through a hard time and I had the opportunity to go stay with the family for a while. As an insider, there were lots of things I noticed while I was there that made the whole time much more stressful on the immediate family, and most of it came from extended family. Here is a list of things to do and not do if someone you know is going through a rough time.

  • Don’t come see the person//family. If you do, ask multiple family members, immediate and extended, and make sure it’s actually a good idea to come.
  • Don’t eat their food and leave them with a messy kitchen. Either clean their kitchen or bring them food. Or just don’t eat.
  • If you ask how you can help, do whatever they say they need you to do. Don’t offer your help and then decline to do whatever they asked just because it’s not what you had in mind. And don’t expect them to ever come to you again and ask for your help if you decline right after you offer.
  • You know whether or not you’re a good friend or close family member. If you’re not close, don’t all of a sudden pretend you are and blabber all that “I’m here for you” junk. You’re not there for them, and both of you know it. If you are a good friend, you’ll already be doing everything you can for them, and they’ll know you’re there for them without you having to remind them.
  • DON’T ask how they’re doing//are they okay. Everyone has already asked them that ten times and they are TIRED of being asked if they are okay. They are not. Assume that and act accordingly.
  • If you don’t know what to do, bring them food, say hi, and leave. Seriously. Food is always a good idea, because the family has probably forgotten to eat and cook regularly. Even better, bring a bucket of ice cream or a cake or something. Find out if there are food allergies in the family. Nothing says ‘cheap gift’ like bringing ice cream when someone in the family has a dairy allergy.
  • And don’t stay. They are tired of people coming over to their house just to sit and do nothing. The more people in the house the heavier the atmosphere gets. Take the younger children to the park or something, but don’t sit around and do nothing. And if you see a cake or a bowl of candy on the table, don’t help yourself to it. That is for the family in need, not for you. And if you have children, make sure they don’t help themselves to it either.
  • If you are a close friend of the family, go stay with them for a couple days(with their permission). If you live nearby, cook for them and clean their house and help with school. Be there for them. Cry with them. If you’re not a close friend, see above point.
  • Watch a movie with them. Talk about their favorite things with them. If they have something they’re passionate about, geeky about, let them be a geek on you and spaz about it, even if you know nothing about what they’re talking about. It will help them get their mind off the current situation. And don’t talk about your own hobbies and obsessions unless they are similar//the same as theirs and might actually interest them.
  • If they start talking to you and need to unload, let them. Even if you don’t think you’re that close to them, they obviously trust you enough to open up to you. Don’t abuse or lose that trust. You won’t get it back. Make sure you’ve earned that trust and if you think you haven’t, start earning it.
  • If a person in the family has died//just died, don’t try to offer words of comfort. If you’re with them in the house, find a family member that needs to be held and cried with. If you’re not there with them, send them a simple, short card and some money.
  • If you have multiple small children(under age 12), don’t bring your whole family over. Having five extra little kids running around the house, making noise and getting into things, won’t help the family at all. Instead, you would be the perfect family to take the young children of the family to the park so they could play with your kids.
  • You don’t need to say anything to them. If you’re close enough to be there at the house with them, don’t feel like you need to blabber or offer advice or tell anyone what to do. A little small talk is okay. If a family member wants to talk, let them, but don’t feel obliged to tell them everything you think. Your opinions do not matter. If you have a suggestion to make that might be helpful, make it, and don’t feel offended if they don’t do what you suggested.
  • Don’t do anything. I’m not kidding. Don’t call, don’t come over. Don’t PM. Don’t email. They are getting hundreds of those every day and they are sick and tired of people’s “I’m so sorry!”s, and “I’m here for you!”s. Six weeks after my friend went through this time, she told me she was still getting pms about it from people she hardly ever interacted with. SIX WEEKS. If a family member of yours died, would you like people bringing back that painful memory SIX WEEKS later? I didn’t think so. So leave them alone if you can’t do anything useful. And to be blunt; you probably can’t.
  • Don’t criticize. If the bathroom obviously needs to be cleaned and there is no toilet paper on the spindle, don’t mention it. Put some toilet paper on the spindle and clean the bathroom. If there are dirty dishes in the sink, wash them. If the kids are behind on school or need clean clothes, don’t say anything. Find a basket of dirty clothes and stick it in the washer. If there’s already a clean load in there, take it out and fold the clothes in the basket so the family knows they are clean.
  • Everyone grieves in different ways. One person might become a recluse, one person might lose themselves in books. Another person might become a comedian and make everyone laugh in an effort to hide the pain. Never condone someone for how they react in a situation; it might by their way of coping and dealing with the pain inside. Criticizing them for what they do will only make it worse.

4 thoughts on “A serious-ish issue

  1. Sounds to me that people just need to use manners and be courteous. :P

    And some of these are valid points, but I disagree with the one about not doing anything. If you’re a true friend, you’ll obviously want to help and they’ll probably want your help whether they know/like it or not. Yeah, if you’re never there for them, don’t bother doing anything. It’s only annoying. But if you’re a true friend, they’ll probably //want// to hear from you in the midst of all the untrue “friends.”

    Also, I think it’s fine to remind them that you’re there for them. Sure, they know you’re there, but they might not talk to you because they don’t want to dump their garbage on you. Reminding them that it’s fine to talk it out and that you want to help them carry this load is a good thing because sometimes we forget.

    You don’t want them to shut everyone out. So be the person to wedge your foot in the door but don’t force it open or let it close.

  2. I don’t think this is a fair “This is how it needs to be” -every family is different. Some families like people over and others don’t.
    The biggest thing anyone can ever do for a family going through a hard time is pray for them, God will guide you in what to do next

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