At some point in your life, you were likely asked the question, “What can I do to help?” I know that I was recently asked that question a whole bunch. As I outlined in a previous post, I’m recovering slowly from a difficult C-section that left me with a beautiful baby and some complications. LOTS of wonderful people around me asked what they can do. Because I’m now experienced at how to answer that question, I got lots of support and help. But I didn’t always know quite how to answer that question.
Here are a few tips that I’ve learned and that I wish I knew that FIRST time that I got a lot of inquiries -- after James’ type 1 diabetes diagnosis years ago. Maybe that is where you are now. If so, accept help! This is what has really worked for our family and might help you with yours.
First, assume that people really do want to help. They do! When you’ve heard about big news from a friend, I’m sure you’ve wanted to do something -- anything -- that would make a difference in that family’s life. Your friends feel the same way. Really, it is okay to tell them what you need.
Second, try to find a task that will really help you but that you think is doable by that person. I wouldn’t ask my grandma to clean my ceramic tile. My grandma COULD help me with another item on my list -- I needed company and someone to hold my newborn. It brought me peace to sit with her for a few hours.
Third, some friends already know what they want to do to help and they might be really good at that thing. A friend of mine recently brought us a batch of gourmet cupcakes. The cupcakes fed my soul and brought cheer to my household!
Fourth, recognize those friends who you can ask to do anything for you -- and let them. My sister is the person I asked to scrub out my shower for me. That’s something I simply cannot do on my own. Another dear friend is the person I could ask to spend time with my older boys; she was willing to keep tabs on my rambunctious 2-year-old, and that job doesn’t go to just anyone.
Fifth, don’t feel guilty. I recently had the most lovely offering from a friend of mine. She has been battling her most recent bout of cancer for almost a year. Only barely recovered from an aggressive round of chemotherapy, she just went under the knife to have a tumor removed. And she wanted to help me. How could I accept her help? I felt like I needed to help her. But I realized it was important to her to know that she was needed. She ended up doing a bit of shopping for me. As she put it, “I have to go to the store anyway, so can I PLEASE get you something?” I accepted. I think it brought her joy, and it helped me too.
I remember the early days of James’ diagnosis. I SO appreciated the gestures from friends and family around me. I had a friend who brought over a loaf of delicious whole wheat bread. Another friend wanted to help but said all she could think to do was to bring over some cookies -- her “go-to” offering. She thought maybe cookies wouldn’t be appreciated in light of James’ diabetes. I explained that he could have cookies, and she brought them. It made me feel so good, and I was able to teach her a little bit.
Coincidentally, that dear friend’s beautiful daughter was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She said a conversation we had at the time of her daughter’s diagnosis helped her. I hope so. Conversation is one of the very best ways we can help each other in tough times. I know that in the early days of James’ diagnosis, I was kept aloft by meaningful conversations with dear friends. That’s a way ANYONE can help.
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our four children. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’m thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.
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