This is a guest post by Heather Osterman
I get by with a little help from my friends, (but asking is really hard.)
“Please let me know how we can help.” Those of us who deal with chronic illness have likely heard this countless times from caring people who mean it sincerely. But this type of offer, though perfectly intended, often stays where it is…as an offer. Ideally, we should be able to share what we need and when, but it’s challenging to ask for help. So for people who want to help but don’t know how, here are some ideas. These are definitely not one size fits all, as people vary greatly in what they need and can and can’t do, there should be something on here for everyone.
Everybody’s got a hungry heart (and stomach.)
Cooking can be hard for people with chronic illness. Offer to bring by a meal, or if cooking’s not your thing, some groceries. And either way, reach out first. Many people with chronic illness are on special nutritional plans, and if that feels intimidating, no worries, offer to feed the kids!
- I’d love to bring you some food. Send me a link to a few of your favorite recipes or tell me what to Google.
- I’m running to the grocery store, what can I pick up for you?
- I’m making a lasagna (or other food), can I drop some buy for your kids?
Our house, is a very, very, very fine house, (except now it’s pretty messy.)
If I have a choice between expending my limited energy folding laundry or playing with my kids, housework’s going to lose every time. The times a friend has come over and folded the laundry or washed some dishes while we’ve socialized have been the biggest gift in the universe.
- What’s more helpful picking up toys in the kids’ room or folding laundry?
- I’m going to do some dishes while we chat, does that work?
- Can I help the kids sort their toys?
Run, run, run away (and maybe bring me something back)
I never thought I’d miss running errands but I do! I miss realizing I need something, like a roll of packing tape, and just being able to walk to the store to get it.
- I’m headed to hardware store, the pharmacy and the farmer’s market today. Need anything?
There’s a land that I see where the children run free (‘cuz they’re not stuck home with me.)
As an ill parent, one of the hardest things is not being able to take my kids on playdates. Many times, I’ll pick up my kids up after school and another parent will ask us to go to the park or something but I have to turn them down. My kids get upset and I go home feeling like a failure.
- I’d love to take your kid to the park for an hour, would that be okay? I’ll pick them up and bring them home?
- Is there a place a playdate would work? What’s easier, your house or ours? You can stay in bed while we play.
Vacation all I ever wanted, (Vacation, time for the kids to be home and bored)
When kids are off from school they’re home. . all day. School holidays, both short and long can be tough. If you’re up for it, and can take our kids out, even for a minute. Please do!
Who let the dogs out? (It was me, but only for five seconds)
For folks with dogs, some days a walk is wonderful, others are impossible. If you’re going for a walk anyway, offer to swing by and take a canine friend for a stroll.
- I’m going for a walk, can I take Fido with me?
‘Aint it good to know you’ve got a friend (even when you’re homebound.)
The isolation that accompanies chronic illness is rough. I know coming by to sit on my couch isn’t necessarily anyone’s idea of a night out, but a chat with a friend can really make the difference between and good and a bad day. And don’t take cancellations personally, it’s hard to plan ahead because we can’t always predict how we’ll feel from one day to the next.
- I’d love to come over and hang out? What’s the best time of day for you?
- It would be great to see you, even if for ten minutes. When can I swing by?
- I know in person visits are too much for you right now but can we text or Skype?
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, make me a match, (find me a friend . . .)
Another big challenge is meeting new friends, especially parents of children in our kid’s class. When you don’t meet new parents, it’s harder to make playdates and build friendships for your kids. So, if you know a parent we might like, bring them over, pretty please.
- Hey, I’m meeting Moana’s mom for a coffee. I think you’d love her, can we stop by for a bit?
Don’t you, forget about me (even if I’ve said “no” or “I can’t” a million times)
Finally, sometimes you’ll make the perfect offer and we’ll still say no, whether it’s because we’re having too bad of a day, (or too good of a day) but please keep trying. You’ll hit a day where your help is sorely needed and deeply appreciated. And please, most importantly, know that this means the world to us. We don’t take a moment of help for granted, not a moment.
Heather Osterman-Davis is a writer and mother of two young children. Some days, she struggles to get out of bed, let alone parent or write but on a good day, does all three. Her work has appeared in Time; Slate; Creative Non Fiction; Brain Child; Tin House’s; River Teeth; and The Mighty among others. You can find her on Twitter @heatherosterman