People who need help sometimes look like people who don’t need help.
Author Glennon Doyle Melton
My day job is working with family caregivers in support groups, a place where they have the freedom to share what’s on their mind and visit with and learn from others who are walking the same path they are on.
I often meet caregivers who are trying to wear so many hats in their families while caring for a loved one with a chronic or terminal illness. They put on a brave face and grip tightly to the ship’s wheel while weighted down by duty, tired and already in the midst of the grieving process that comes early to caregivers as they let go of what they dreamed life would look like for them and their spouse. Often, they can’t see to navigate the ship for their loved one let alone take care of their own health and well-being. Sometimes the simple question: “Is there someone who can help you?” leaves them dumbfounded. Many don’t realize they have the right to ask for help from friends or family members. They often believe they are in it all alone.
You don’t have to be caring for a terminally ill loved one to believe that you are alone. Single moms and dads, widows, as well as healthy couples can all feel this in a variety of life circumstances. But the belief that we are alone often isn’t reality, though, it’s a feeling that we have to prove wrong by stepping out of our comfort zones and asking for help or accepting it when offered.
For me, asking for help is an exercise in swallowing a mix of pride and fear–too proud to let anyone know I can’t do something and fear that if I step out and ask I’ll be rejected. But one of the biggest predictors in how an individual or family navigates successfully through a life-changing event, a stressor, whether a death or chronic illness, loss of a job or home, is how they access support from friends, family and community. So our very well-being is dependent on allowing us to be supported by our support system.
Maybe you are like me and need an Ask For Help 101 crash course to remember:
You are not a burden: “I don’t want to be a burden” is a common phrase I hear and I have certainly used it myself. People who know you and your situation want to help. They feel helpless as they watch you try to do it all on your own. Allowing others to help you builds a deeper connection with people and relieves the feelings of being alone in your problems. Both have positive emotional benefits for you. For the helpers, it gives them a sense of purpose and satisfaction that they have not stood on the sidelines watching someone they love and care about struggle.
Keep a list: When I’m asked How can I help? I rarely have a running list in my mind. But later I remember that I need help taking down my Christmas lights, someone to watch my dog when I go on a business trip, and a question on my taxes. I suggested recently to a man who is caring for a sick wife, and has been turning away help because he can’t think of how people can help him, to have a list in his pocket or wallet that he can pull out when someone asks if they can help him. Being proactive helps!
Don’t Feel Obligation: Many people don’t accept help because they feel their current circumstances prevents them from reciprocating. “I don’t have time to help so I don’t feel right taking help,” a friend said to me recently. After my husband died, I learned very quickly that I would never be able repay people for all of the help they provided me and my family. I resolved that I would sincerely thank them, and one day when I was back on my feet emotionally share the same kindness to others who needed help like I did. Their kindness had been a model and motivator for me to use in the future.
Our challenge is to stop trying to do it on our own long before the burden takes its toll on us physically, emotionally and spiritually and to let people know we need help, to ask and/or accept.