Tip #1*: Accept Help
Historically, when I go through something rough, my process looks like this: 1. Bad thing(s) happen 2. Freak out 3. Hole up 4. Tell everyone I am okay and brush off any offers of help 5. Believe I am okay 6. Repeat 5 and 6 in varying order for a while 7. Come out on other side 8. Realize I was not okay.
Hopefully you are more self-aware than I, but I think a lot of people do this. I tried thinking about why and have come up with too many crazy reasons to count. Like, I want people to believe I have my shit together even when I don't (cleaning my house when people came to visit one week post c-section) or the always useful pride. Pride has helped me in my life approximately negative a thousand times. But reasons aside, I just don't normally accept much help.
But then this bad thing and we needed it. People offered help two ways. One, they said, "What can I do for you?" or "Let us know if we can help." My MO is to say I'm fine (see last paragraph. But because my husband has experienced a similar crisis (and because he is more graceful than I in many ways) when people offered to help, he just said, "That would be great!" What?!?! Is that I thing you can say to people? I really did not know.
Other people didn't even offer a promise of help, they just dished up real help. They just did stuff. Like, told me what day they could watch our son. Or dropped of delicious meals, fresh and frozen. So, I didn't even really have a chance to say no.
And so we just accepted it all: meals and childcare and kind words and and flowers (see picture) and sympathy and prayers and jokes and good thoughts and beautiful heartfelt cards and lawn-mowing. I even almost accepted a bathroom cleaning, which is about the most gracious and disgusting act of love I can think of. Maybe next crisis I will have grown enough to accept it, but this round, I knew the only way I would let someone clean my bathroom is if I cleaned it first. Which would defeat the purpose.
Not only did it help make like logistically and emotionally easier, it felt other-worldly good to know that people were out there, loving us. Which, I know they are, theoretically.
As big life events tend to do, I've thought a lot about...a lot. But one of the things I've realied is that, not only did I rarely accept help before, I realized that people rarely accept my help or reach out to me in a crisis. This could be because I'm totally useless, but at risk of tooting my own horn, I'm actually pretty good in a crisis. How often, when finally catching up with a friend, do we say, "You should have let me know!" Too many. My hope is that after accepting so much help from others, people might accept help from me. Also, I've learned about how to offer help. My new style will be to just give, don't worry too much about if it's the wrong help. Even the wrong help feels supportive in a crisis. Which means, maybe, there is no wrong help? Let's think about that and get back to each other.
* Did you see the #1 here? This implies #2, it implies series. And that is my honest intention. Stay tuned!