“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait, and watch, and work; you don’t give up.”

– Ann Lamott

Today I was compelled to write a “food for thought” blog post and start a guide for those of you who have a lover, spouse, colleague, friend, or family member who is facing a serious illness.

As a trauma specialist and grief companion who has walked alongside hundreds of people who have experienced the death of a loved one, I know you have questions, and what those questions might be.

A friend of mine, age 26, was told she has six months to live…and the journey has begun for her and her loved ones.

The time is right for me to share tips for you to consider – tips that will help you be better prepared for helping others…or understanding your own needs.

What do I do to help?

Usually, one of the first conversations I have as a hospice volunteer involves “what do I do to help?” People tell me things like, “my friend doesn’t want to see me anymore,” or “I think I should stay away.”

Do not feel alone. I’m going to provide a few suggestions.

10 helpful tips for supporting others:

  1. Be sincere about what/how much/when you can commit to help or visit. Stay committed when you offer a date and time. Show up.
  2. Food can be “food for the soul;” however, ask if food is already being delivered to the home. Sometimes people are inundated with food.
  3. Ask if the family would like help with errands or household tasks. Tell them you want to mow the lawn. Say, “I am going shopping today. What do you need?”
  4. Give thoughtful gifts. Consider self-care or pampering products, music, or handwritten notes.
  5. Your presence is a wonderful gift. Sometimes, a friend may just want to “be” with you in silence.
  6. Stay in touch by phone or email. These tasks can use up a lot of energy, so don’t be disappointed if you do not hear back immediately.
  7. Be helpful to the partner or family member who is living with the person facing illness. They can be forgotten.
  8. Don’t be afraid to have courageous conversations. Know that sometimes that means you just stay silent.
  9. Ask your friend if he or she wants to look through albums or create a memory book.
  10. Spirituality may be a big part of your friend’s life. If you don’t share the same or similar beliefs, just allow your friend to be in the driver’s seat with their perspectives. You are not there to influence.

If you wish to share additional suggestions that have helped you, I would be very appreciative.

Next time we’ll talk about respect and wide-ranging and conflicting emotions.

Best wishes for the day,