Friday, April 17, 2009

Loving Those Who are Hurting

Sometimes when we are hurting and it feels as though the world is crushing us, it is hard to tell people what we need or want from them. I have been through some rough patches over the past fifteen years and here are some things that have helped me weather the storm. Some people have been great and I am listing what they did because it helped so much. Others, on the other hand have responded insensitively (at best) and down right mean (at worst). I wrote this list in first person, remembering what helped me heal.

So here is my list of the top ten list of things to do (or not to do) for those who are hurting or a suffering a crisis:

10. Listen without comment. Just let me feel my feelings. Don't get bent out of shape if I am mad and a cuss word slips out. Get over it. I am not perfect, never was, and don't intend to start now when I am having a dark time in my life. My humanity is showing and I don't need a lecture from you. Just pray that my anger will give way to forgiveness, my pain will be replaced with peace and that I can have a few minutes of clarity as my life falls completely apart.

9. Pray for me at home. Don't just say you are going to pray for me, do it. If you will, the Spirit will comfort me and let me know that my brothers and sisters who love me are lifting me up before the Father. Just ask the Comforter to draw me in, the Counselor to give me wisdom, and ask the Father for love and peace to surround me during this dark time. Honestly, what more can you do?

8. If I respond badly to you, it might be that I am having a worse day than you. My frustration with you is probably not about you. You just happened to be the last in a series of events and people which reminded me, once again, that I am not in control of my life...and sometimes that fact makes me angry. Please don't write me off because I respond badly. If you are my friend, give me some time (but not too much time) and come back to me.

7. Just tell me you love me and move on. If I need more from you, I will talk to you. Keep me in your prayers at home. I can't handle much more than that at this time. Sometimes just being around people in church, crowds, public is overwhelming. Give me space to heal in my own way, in my own time, with the people I choose.

6. If you found out about my issues through gossip (gossip is talking about another person who is not standing there, engaged in the conversation), tell the person who told you that they are spreading gossip and ask them to stop. Tell them, "Whatever is going on in so-and so's life must be very hard to handle. You might want to handle the information in the same way you would want others to handle information about you if the most humiliating and painful experiences of your life were revealed." Anyway, don't call me and ask if the rumors are true. I already have enough on my plate. And...please don't talk about me and what I say to you to anyone else. Keep what I say to you confidential.

5. Help me to cope by giving me physical and emotional support. Ask me if I need anything and be willing to help me. Just pay this month's mortgage without telling me. Help me out where you know I might need help. Fill up my tank or change the oil in my car. Pay for a month of therapy. Leave $200 dollars cash in my mailbox with a note that says, "Hope this helps." Don't sign it. Help me get my feet back under me. Send me a note expressing your care and concern for me. If you want, include gift certificates to Sonic, McDonalds, Baskins-Robbins, Applebees or any other food place.

4. I am really not interested in anyone else who had the same surgery and died. I don't need a recap of other people's similar situations. I would rather hear silence from you more than I want to hear about your sister-in-law's friend's next door neighbor. Just knowing you are nearby is comfort enough, you don't have to talk. I have lost my social bearing and don't know what to say most of the time, or feel awkward around people. If you get that sense from me, keep it short and sweet. Also, stop others midsentence if they are saying insensitive or idiotic things.

3. Please don't get into a theological discussion about why bad things happen to good people. I am not able to think about much more than, "Should I eat Cheerios or Raisin Bran?" I may be having problems deciding whether or not "three days without getting out of bed is depression or just grieving." If I put on pants today, I am doing phenomenal. Praise God if I showered and am able to do the basics right now. If you think I am being punished by God because of my lack of faith, please don't say those words out loud...I don't need guilt on top of my grief.

2. Show up midweek just to support me or to go out and eat lunch. Sometimes, treat me like nothing happened and this is a normal day, like before I lost everything. Let's pretend like its not happening for two hours and just catch a game, go fishing, or catch a movie. Be prepared to leave early if I can't handle it.

1. Grieving takes time. It may be a year (or two) before any sense of normalcy returns in my life. If you are my friend, be patient with me if I digress for a time. Pray for me in rough times and give me space to heal and grow. Be there for my family as well, help my spouse and children to cope by doing with them what you are doing with me.

I hope these help you respond to others in times of crisis. Can you think of others I have neglected to mention or that have helped you during a time of crisis?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the list, very useful as I try to care more deeply about and love others more. I am sure I have violated most of these in my interactions with you. Please forgive me.

    I finally greated a profile so I can make blog comments.

    Hope you and your family are all well. We are staying plenty busy with graduation plans and wedding planning.