I distinctly remember the first time it happened.
I was 19. My step father had just passed away days before, and our house was full of visitors and friends.
Every time one of them would leave, they’d pull me aside and say” If you need anything just let me know.” And then they’d disappear into the in and outs of their of their own lives.
The sentiment, of course, was so well intended. They knew I had just suffered a major loss and truly wanted to support me however they could.
The problem was, my world had just been blown apart and I had no idea what I needed or what being there for me would even look like. Not. One. Clue.
So I stayed quiet and didn’t ask. I did not know what to ask for, and frankly, if I had it would have felt too exhausting to try to convey to someone.
I’ve been noticing this same phenomenon frequently in my world lately. It’s not necessarily around something as life altering as a death, but the dynamic is familiar. Maybe it’s about a marriage in trouble, or a parents aging. Sometimes, it is simply that someone is having a hard time for reasons even they can’t articulate.
And we say ( myself included) with all the sincerity in the world: Let me know if you need anything.
I believer there is tremendous value in asking ourselves what would serve us in the moment or even in the general flow of our lives. We can even start making a list of thing we wish we had help with, or we would feel relieved of if it were taken off our plate. And when people offer, we can refer to what we have written. There is a certain self intimacy that occurs when we start to know ourselves in this way.
I also believe there are times when we are just in the throes of IT, what ever IT is, that we don’t know what we would need and don’t have the bandwidth to figure it out. Here is where I think it’s important to offer some suggestions or alternatives.
It does not have to be anything earth shattering. An offer to go to the store, or fold laundry or watch kids. Or consider what you would want or need if you were in a similar situation and present that to them. You can even suggest more than one time. Maybe you come back in a week and tell them you’d like to take their dog for a walk while they sit and breathe. There is tremendous nourishment to be found for you by simply being willing to extend yourself in this way. It is also incredibly powerful to take a stand for another person, letting them know you see them and their pain and you are just WITH them however you can be. They don’t need to explain it or understand it or figure it out. You are simply there.
And a note to the people who may turn the help down, dismiss it, refuse it or reject it in some way because you ” should” be stronger than that, or others have it worse, or whatever the thing you tell yourself is… letting the humans in your life who love you and want to be there for you, well, love you and be there for you is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Think back to a time when you wanted to help someone and they allowed you to. It deepens connection and closeness, which is really all we want anyway.
Who do you know that may be going through some shit right now that you could make an offer to? How could you accept someone’s kindness today if you are the one currently in the thick of it?