Take a scroll through your contact list or, if you still have one, flip through your roll-o-dex. Is there somebody you know who lives alone? Do you have a friend whose mom is in an assisted living facility? Does your cousin’s step-daughter have an addiction? When’s the last time you checked in with somebody far away? Or, for that matter, down the street?
I am fortunate. I have more than a handful of people upon whom I can count at any time and for any reason. All I have to do is reach out. If I need a favor, or an ear, or some company, all I have to do is ask and I will be rewarded with support.
Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? For me, it’s a dilemma: the times when I’ve been most needing of support, I just couldn’t bring myself to ask for it. When my husband died, many friends with the best of intentions would say, “let me know if you need anything.” At that time, what I needed was someone to make the pain go away, and more practically, to go to the grocery store for me. I know that if I had asked anyone to pick up a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread, they would have gladly done so. Yet I didn’t. I couldn’t. It was just easier to express my thanks and wallow in my pain alone.
Looking back, I now know that the practical solution was actually out of my hands. I learned that it’s a good idea to provide emotional support anyway, without waiting to be asked. The adults in the groups I’ve facilitated at Adam’s Place (www.adamsplacelv.org) have told me that it was nearly impossible for them to figure out what they needed when they were living in the intensity of their loss. These grieving parents shared what they found to be the most helpful when they simply couldn’t ask for help. For example, one woman told us how her two best friends showed up at her door, unannounced, with mops, buckets, and cleaning products. Another shared how her late husband’s best friend came over every Saturday morning with his tools to wander around the house fixing stuff. Planning a hike, or a mani-pedi afternoon, or delivering a pan of lasagna, still warm, were other examples of emotional support.
A short text to say “thinking about you,” or a handwritten note sent via snail mail are also ways of showing emotional support. When our grandmothers would say, “it’s the thought that counts,” they weren’t kidding. Receiving an unexpected gesture, no matter what it might look like, works to the advantage of both the giver and the receiver. I think it’s the unexpected, random show of support that makes it all the more appreciated.
Personally, I hope that the feelings of joy and gratitude become as contagious as the Corona virus!
What ways have you provided emotional support to someone who can’t or won’t ask?