Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Expiration: 3-17-10 Do not double"

I've been pretty swamped with BRICKS related work lately, and Ive been lucky to have the assistance of a couple of wonderful helpers. But in my day to day life, the one where Im left figuring out how to fix things or how Im going to pay to fix something, the offers of help have waned since the days immediately following my husband's death.

In the days and weeks right after a major life changing event, people flock to you, come at you from all sides offering everything from food to housework to money. A lot of times these well intentioned offers are completely unsolicited and absolutely sincere. For me, in those first few weeks, maybe even months, I didnt know WHAT I needed. All I knew for sure was that there were things I wasnt ready to do or deal with, and that Id let people know when that time came. I didnt realize that time would be nearly a year and a half later. Back then I couldnt bear the thought of cataloguing my husband's art work or packing up his supplies. It took me months to pack up his clothes and even to this day some of his things remain exactly where he left them.

With so much time gone by, I feel as though those offers of help may not be redeemable. Sure, people still care about me and my situation, but I often feel like those not living with the loss in the way I am probably dont understand why Im not "all better" or "back to normal" by now. They probably cant comprehend how absolutely immobilizing approaching some of these tasks may be. Can I paint the kitchen ceiling by myself? Sure. Can I do it without remembering Rick on a ladder patching the hole in it? No. Do I need someone to say "Todays the day we paint this ceiling!"? Maybe.

My question to you, dear readers is: When you offer to help someone, does that offer ever expire? Do you offer out of obligation or sincere willingness to help when needed? Do you feel like people dealing with a loss, diagnosis, or other life altering event lose their right to cash in the help coupon after a certain period of time?

To those of you on the same end of this situation as me, what has your experience been with this? Have you found areas where you realized you needed help well after your life changing event? How have you reminded people they offered help once, and have you been successful in receiving it?

Please share your thoughts on this, Id love to hear from everyone!


  1. Charissa, I think this contrast between WHEN folks are motivated to offer help and when we NEED it is probably the key social issue that affects widowed people -- it's one of the ones I hear about the most, usually stated in terms of misunderstanding, misfit, and losing the friendship!
    In my experience, many folks ARE willing to help again, but it's best to be very specific and have it be part of the relationship -- in other words, reestablish a rapport first and let them know what your journey's actually been like, and then ask them to help with some specific task, or maybe a few things but on a certain day.
    The sort of "blanket" "we'll do anything you want, whenever you want" stuff and the requests from people you don't know so well are unlikely to be revived a year and a half one -- except, of course, for the fact that you may have many new friends (perhaps some that you don't know about yet).

    Staying stuck on the old friends and on what they offered in the "heat of passion" (as it were) is unlikely to work well, but old friends are often "convertible" to new friends.

    I'd say assume the best of everyone who offers but understand how their own motivation and connection to you has changed, as have your needs.



  2. Thanks for sharing, Supa. I appreciate your comments on this!

    I think whats possibly hardest is when, as some people have commented on facebook, you think you have someone willing and able to help do a thing you need, and they drag their feet or dont show up or stall and you feel like they are unreliable. Or that they dont have time for you. More than getting the actual task done, I think thats the part that hurts the most.

    Ive also wondered if/noticed that people seem to stay away because being in my house reminds them even more of my husband's absence. Its like if they dont come around they dont have to confront it as directly. Maybe for some of us in these situations, our friends are willing to help but not comfortable (even after a lot of time) confronting their own feelings about the loss?

  3. I don't know if I was really an intended commenter, having not known you(really)then or ever met your husband, but I think that offers of help sincerely given don't expire, but you just have to ask.
    I think that is the hardest part of feeling needy, no matter what the source. At least for me, I have a hard time asking for the help that need even when I am actually able to figure out exactly what that help might be... and in instances of feeling overwhelmed that is not always the case.
    I know the hardest thing for me(although not experiencing your loss, but my own different sort of tough time) is to reach out and accept offers of help. But in the cases I have been able to make the call to someone and say... I am struggling with____... can you help me?... I have been embarassed at how easy it was and wonder why I felt so tormented and had such a hard time asking.

    And just to throw it out there, if you ever need anything that I can help you with even just a little... I'm all in, lady! : )
    I might bring a circus along for the ride... but often times it's the circus' antics that keep me going!(as long as you keep your sense of humor!)
    Take care you!