Do you get to this time of year and wonder how on earth you can help your friend or family member who is doing it tough? Perhaps you care so deeply but just don’t know how you can help them or make a difference? You know you can’t change their circumstances but if there was only a way you can make their days just a bit easier…..
For many of us Christmas signifies the time of year where we get to take a “break” from our job, even if it is only for a couple of days. We take the opportunity to cast our mind back over the year that was and set new intentions, hopes and dreams for the year to come.
While it is a beautiful time where we come together and celebrate, for caregivers and those who experience extreme grief and loss at this time of year, it is impossible to get into the spirit. There is simply NO relief in sight. No real ‘new beginnings’, just more of the same. Responsibility levels do not change, often needs increase. Emotions are run high and it can be a stark reminder of what they are missing, not what they have!
WE HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE THIS!
Over the years I have spoken to many people and recently I surveyed people to find out exactly what would make a difference to them in their toughest times. Here are the top 5 ways you can help out those doing it tough during holidays and every day:
VISIBILITY & VOICE
People simply want to be heard and to be seen. To have the opportunity to share their thoughts, fears and feelings with people who are willing to really LISTEN and be there unconditionally. They want and need to do this without fear of judgement or reciprocal well-meaning advice. Often we can’t change their circumstances, but a friendly ear, acknowledgement or embrace can make all the difference. On the flip side, many also like their space. It is therefore incredibly important to take the carers lead and if they don’t want to talk about it right now, please don’t push the issue.
HAND UP vs HAND OUT
Well meaning friends and family often are compelled to gift money, vouchers and gifts because they don’t know what else to do. Practical help will always be the best present you can give – but don’t expect to be asked to help – EVER!
How can you provide practical support? A simple shop for groceries, doing a couple of household chores, running some errands, a cooked meal like a lasagne or a bake (super popular but no one would dare ask), book appointments for them, pay some bills or even taking the kids (pets or other family members) out for a few hours will yield a few hours of appreciated respite and breathing space. If you see that something needs doing or that you know will lighten the load, be respectful of boundaries but please lend a hand any way you can. They will be forever grateful.
WELL MEANING ADVICE
Most of us aren’t open to ‘advice’ from our friends and family who may not have experienced our situation…. Even when they have, unless you are asked to provide it – keeping well meaning opinions to yourself is a gift in itself. Advice and opinion can be the one thing that makes us feel isolated and judged.
Human beings will always make meaning out of experiences and situations. When vulnerable, that well-meaning advice is likely to be taken as a negative or a criticism on us personally. Enter resentment. Let them know you are there if they want to work through some ‘solutions or options’ but unless you are invited, it is probably best to leave it there.
NORMALITY / DISTRACTION / LAUGHTER
One of the best things that you can do for others is be yourself and provide the opportunity of normality and laughter! We know that it is not healthy for even ourselves to sit, mope and wallow for hours and days on end. Distraction and the opportunity to lighten the mood and to discuss different topics will be a welcome relief for many. Music, games, nature, fresh air and a change of atmosphere work well. Get creative but again, be wary of space and boundaries.
SUPPORT GROUPS / FORUMS
There is incredible benefit in connecting with others who “get it” in a positive and constructive space. My private facebook group Carers Connect has is a unique space that has bought together many caregivers who provide informal support to each other all with “can-do” attitudes. Their experience and understanding has proven to be invaluable to each other. If you know of any groups that will benefit the carer you know, by all means share them.
If you are still concerned about your friend or family member’s wellbeing and feel you can’t help, there are a range of support organisations and help lines you can contact for extra support. Beyond Blue have a resource page with a range of support numbers and websites that can help (including more links to forums and support groups). You can access the page here: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites
If you or the person you are helping are in an emergency or at immediate risk of harm to self or others please contact emergency services on 000
Other contacts include:
- Life Line: 13 11 14
- Carers Australia: 1800 242 636
- Headspace: 1800 650 890
- Suicide Prevention: 1300 659 467
- Carers Connect
Information provided with love from me to you,
Perhaps the caregiver you know is close to exhaustion and overwhelm. Maybe they are already there?
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