It doesn't matter who we are or where we live, heartache can hit any family, and our lives can change in an instant. When these things happen to anyone, but especially someone you know, it can be hard to figure out how to respond. What can you say to make things better? What can you do to ease their pain? The answer to both of those questions is usually nothing, but there are two major things you can do that will give them the comforting safety net they desperately need.
Moms are usually the ones everyone else looks to for strength and resilience. We're suppose to stand tall and never crack. And usually, we don't. But as a mother who's endured my share of tumultuous events, I've learned that there are only two things a fellow mom friend can give me to help: a listening ear and a home-cooked meal. That's all.
[My friends] let me cry, scream, and sit there, all without sharing their own stories and opinions.
In a two-week stretch, my son was in the ICU with severe RSV pneumonia, and my mother was hospitalized for 10 days due to severe problems with her uterine cancer treatments. It was a dark time. To say that I was hanging on by a thread was an understatement. And there were times when that thread broke. But luckily, I had friends who helped me tie it back together.
During this time, it felt like I practically lived at the hospital. I slept in my son's crib with him, and also laid on the recliner with my mother. I felt alone, but I wasn't. Not only did my friends check in on me, they also listened to me intently without interruption. They let me cry, scream, and sit there, all without sharing their own stories and opinions. And after both my son and mother healed, I realized something in hindsight: that was exactly what I needed. Instead of telling me it was all going to be OK when that wasn't a guarantee, or telling me about someone they know who also has cancer, they sat with me and listened. They kept the story on my mother, because they knew that every diagnosis was different. They recognized that it wasn't about them, and I'll never forget that.
These same friends also did something that most people know to do, and that is to bring food. When a mother is going through a hard time, going to the grocery store isn't high on her priority list, and a hot, home-cooked meal can go a long way. This simple gesture can mean that our kids are fed, we are fed, and we have one less weight on our shoulders. And my friends did something even more amazing. They knew that I wasn't up for company, so they simply left the food at my doorstep and left. I didn't have to paint a fake smile on my face or pretend to want to invite them in for small talk. That was an amazing gift.
So, fellow moms, the next time one of your friends is hit with a tragedy, there's no need for grand gestures. Listen to her, hear her, and hug her, and make a meal for her family. While it may not feel like you're doing much, these two small things will mean more to her than you can possibly imagine.