My sister called the other day. She was headed to help her dear friend’s family in the last days of her life and had a very poignant question for me. “Nancy, tell me how to help without being intrusive”. It was such a wise question and perhaps one that isn’t asked often enough. Amy knows we’ve had many people come to my home over the years to help during one health crisis or another. She also knows how we’ve felt as a result of those visits. Some have brought sweet loving kindness and mercy while others have left us feeling crushed and overwhelmed. How you respond can make a huge difference in how those you love feel during some of the most difficult times of their lives. After my conversation with Amy I realized what an important topic this really is and I decided to share my thoughts today. So here we go!
5 Ways to Show Loving Kindness and Mercy During a Crisis
- Ask if it’s a good time for you to come. When someone is sick, so much choice is taken away from them and they often feel out of control – I know I certainly have. I can only imagine how those who are dying and their families feel. They are in the process of letting go, there is so much of the unexpected surrounding them as well as a looming count down to the inevitable. Feelings are raw. Taking the time to ask if coming is helpful offers respect and honors the deeply sacred and often private process they are already in.
- Make sure you communicate there are no expectations. This can be a sticky point. When someone is a sick or dying, the focus must be on them and their immediate family. You can’t roll into town and expect lodging and meals so you can save money nor can you expect for your kids to be entertained. While those things might happen, having that expectation is wrong and places undue pressure on those you are intending to help. If you can’t go without expectation or demands, perhaps it isn’t the right time for you to go.
- Be a quiet, steady presence. We’ve had people swoop into our house full of opinions, ideas and plans of actions. Their hearts were definitely in the right place however their go, go, go attitude overwhelmed us and left us feeling exhausted. A better mode of operand-um is to be a servant; quiet, steady and ready to help where ever you’re needed. After my brain injury, I really needed people to just come and talk with me. I felt so disconnected from the world — disconnected from meaningful relationships. Even though the house was a mess, I needed someone to sit and talk with me to help me feel human again. My friends who were able to over look the messes, and connect with me personally, helped me heal. Those who came in and tried to reorganize, clean up, toss and purge or generally fix everything were helpful on one level — just not on the level I needed them to be.
- Be a willing stealth grunt worker. I have a friend who faithfully came to visit me every week. After our visits, when I drifted off to sleep, she would sneak off and clean our bathrooms. We were so stressed at the time, we didn’t even realize it was being done. When we finally figured it out, she just smiled and blushed a little. She’s never asked for anything in return. When I bring it up she shrugs it off. You have no idea how highly I esteem her. She did a job no one else wanted to do without fanfare of any kind. WOW.
- Be safe in their struggle. Not everyone who is sick or dying walks through a crisis of faith. Many do though. Those who do, need gentle compassion and tender mercy. They need to be embraced and accepted where they are without criticism. The people who have allowed me to wrestle with the Lord through my crisis’ of faith continue to be the most influential people in my life. Those who made statements like my circumstances would turn around if I only had enough faith or, that God helps those who help themselves only heaped more pain into my situation. When you meet someone who is suffering and questioning God’s love for them, come to their side gently with the most tender mercy and loving kindness you have. They are in a holy process with God that must be honored and respected. Let them cry and question. Let them grieve and feel the fullness of their sorrow. Weep with them and most of all, never ever belittle them for where they are on their very difficult journey.
When loved ones are in medical crisis we have the honor of loving them well. That honor requires great sensitivity, wisdom and a willingness to help in the ways they need it most. Listen well. Serve quietly. Be safe in their struggle. Pray without ceasing.
May God give us all wisdom when he calls us to love our hurting friends.
If you can’t go to be with friends, you can still be a tangible help.
- Send gift cards for gas, fast food, groceries
- Send money to help cover medical bills or child care
- Write a hand written letter of encouragement weekly
- Pray. Really, really pray.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/34701044@N06/4000009470″>A Silent Calling</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a