The final installment of what to give when so much has been taken away…what to DO. Some of the “do’s” were covered in the other posts because they sort of overlap. For instance…offering prayer, planning and delivering meals, giving gifts. But this category is a little different and focused totally on service-related help.
Help with the Other Kiddos
It’s hard enough to walk through this storm when it’s your only child. When other kids are involved, it becomes that much more of a challenge. My heart would break into even more pieces when I felt like my other kids were suffering…and they were. Not only having to watch and try to understand what was going on, but the change in schedule, less time with mom and dad, no consistency…they’ve done very well but it’s been hard on them. Help arrange carpools to and from school or sports or music lessons. Plan play-dates. Offer to take the other kiddos with to the park or mall.
Fill in at Work
I don’t know where I’d be without the amazing team I have at work who jumped in and took over. And what’s more incredible, they expected nothing in return. I didn’t have to worry about lesson plans or grades…my jobs on committees were taken on…they would fill in when I just needed an hour or two for a doc appointment. It was really amazing.
Help Plan or Come To a Benefit
Planning an event like this is a big job…I totally recognize that. I honestly, HONESTLY can’t believe the hours and hours of dedicated work that went into planning not one, but TWO benefits put on for our family. Good friends, acquaintances, total strangers…I truly will never, ever forget the kindness and dedication of these incredible people. And if you can’t take on the planning…try REALLY hard to attend. It touched my heart soooo deeply to know that some people that I hadn’t seen in ages drove great distances just to come support us. Seeing, talking, hugging them all…it was really up-lifting.
Organize a Prayer Group or Chain
Updating everyone all the time was exhausting for me. Even with Facebook and Caring Bridge…it got hard to keep everyone up to speed. And yet, I believe so strongly in the power of prayer, that I wanted people to know what was going on. I had a few contacts that I would keep connected with and they would contact others through our small group or church family.
Attend Walks/Events for their “Team”
Attending childhood cancer-related walks or events was really important for us…especially in the beginning. It can be time consuming for people to attend all of these, which I totally recognize and respect. But if you’re able to come…please, please, please do so. Feeling a community of support at walks, runs, events…it’s really truly amazing.
Buy Their Stuff
Most families that I know of have some sort of supportive “thing” they design and sell for fundraising purposes. If nothing like this has been done and you have an artistic side, offer to help with it! If it’s already a done deal, buy one! We had friends who designed t-shirts and bracelets. Seeing pics of people in them…even over a year after diagnosis…it’s a reminder that we have a TEAM of support behind us all the time.
After awhile, life gets back to normal for you…but not for us. We are forced to adjust to a new normal for the entire duration of treatment and beyond. And even if we’re not talking about treatment…moving on from an event or loss or “thing” never really happens 100%. It changes us in major ways…even despite our best efforts to remain the same. And while I’m not the kind of person who likes to dwell on things, I also don’t like to ignore the simple fact that life.is.different…and it likely always will be to a certain extent. Getting that, acknowledging that, understanding that…is really, really important.
Understand when they Flake
I used to be so dependable. If I planned something, I’d follow through. On time, all the time. (Ok…most of the time 😉 ). But Dani’s diagnosis changed everything…in a huge way. And it’s not only the physical ability to have to say no or have to cancel something…it’s emotional exhaustion as well. There are times I say yes and then time comes and I’m in a really different place. My ability to muster up the energy to even just get showered and dressed changes on a pretty regular basis. It’s getting better…a year and a half out…but it still creeps up from time to time. Understand that and be supportive. Ask if they want to chat about it…but let it go if they don’t. Keep trying, be flexible, stay accessible.
So there you have it. The end of my 3-part blog series. I’m hoping that these suggestions can offer some perspective and help navigate the confusing waters of trying to help in a situation where it’s difficult to know what to do. I would LOVE to hear from others who have been on the unfortunate receiving end of this…what did YOU find most helpful?