House fire.

Cancer.

Deployment.

The birth of a baby.

Major surgery.

Accident or injury.

Illness.

Natural disaster.

A tough divorce.

The loss of a loved one…

The list goes on.  At some point in your military life, a life changing event is bound to happen to someone you know and care about.  Whether it be a military friend, a family member, a loved one either near or far, it will happen.  And it’s hard….

It’s hard to be the one who isn’t there.  One of the biggest challenges we face from living all over the country is not being able to pick up and come when called.  The sense of helplessness is tough.  What do you say?  What do you do?  Are people judging you because you didn’t come?  Or shocked that you only came for a weekend?  It’s easy to let your mind wander, but let’s focus on what we can do.  Today we share some tried and true options for supporting those we love from right down the street to across the globe.


WAYS TO HELP LOVED ONES LOCALLY

  • Gift a super low maintenance plant.  We know what you’re thinking, I don’t want them to feel bad if it dies or worry about one more thing.  WE GET IT!  That’s not the intent.  Buy them a plant that can literally be neglected for weeks on end and still thrive – try a zz plant, snake plant, or pothos (we know this because we’ve neglected plants before lol).  Drop the plant off, visit with your friend and stick the plant somewhere in the house.  Set a reminder in your phone to swing by in 3-4 weeks to water the plant!  This is a great way to do a “forced” check in, because we all know that immediately after tragedy strikes everyone comes running.  It’s a month or so later that life returns to normal and everyone forgets about the tragedy.  Not you though!  You’ll be checking in months for the next bit until your friend wants to water the plant on their own.

  • If the family has children and you have established a good rapport with the kids, you can offer to do things with the kids so the adults can have time to do important things.  We’ve found the best strategy for this is to BE DIRECT

Don’t say this – “If you’d like help with Jacob at all, please let me know”

Try this instead: “I would like to bring Jacob to the movies and then out for dinner.  Would this weekend be good or shall we wait until next weekend?”

Don’t say this: “I am happy to help get Cindy off the bus anytime, just let me know!”

Try this instead: “Please allow me to wait at the bus stop for Cindy until you’re wanting to take over.  We will make sure she gets home!  I’d also love for her to come with us to school drop-off in the mornings.  Are you able to have her ready by 7:30am?”

  • Prepare actual meals, don’t just give door dash gift cards!  Think of easing the mental burden – don’t add to it.  If you’d like to order out for them, simply say “I would like to order from Danny’s Pizza for you tonight.  Here is the menu, what would you like?”
  • Block out time in your schedule to run errands with your friend.  Sometimes getting back into the swing of things is key after a major life event, and it’s easier to go about it with a friend.  Running mundane errands with a friend can ease the stress of seeing people in public while your world is spinning.

PROVIDING HELP TO LOVED ONES FROM AFAR

support loved ones

  • Organize a meal train, gofundme, etc to help.  If people would rather contribute gift cards, we highly suggest just doing a standard card so the recipient can use them anywhere for just about anything! 
  • Pay for services directly – pet walkers, pay for kids activities, house cleaners, LAUNDRY service, lawn service, school supplies – get creative and use the internet, we have faith in your detective skills!
  • Send a care package – depending on the situation, needs will be different.  Here are some ideas of types of things to include:  activities to keep kids busy, crafts/puzzles even for adults, a Lola blanket (we love their mission), clothing for hospital visits, magnesium balm for anxiety and sleep (we love this one for kids), a hand written note, a suggestion for a good podcast, comfortable headphones, snacks etc
  • Organize a fundraiser that appeals to people anywhere ( ex. selling t shirts or bracelets for a cause).
  • Set up a centralized communication network to keep everyone informed about the individual’s progress.  This could be a shared online platform designed to update the broader support network (ex Caringbridge)
  • Be open and available for calls, Facetime, and zoom chats.  Sometimes just picking up the phone and calling to hear about how the day went makes a significant difference.  Generally when big news hits people come running – but many don’t stick around months after the face.  Show continued support, keep calling, and just listen! 

We hope that it has brought you some good ideas on how to help support your loved ones.  We are always looking for ways to share more creative ideas with our families, so let us know what you do to help those who you love when they need it most – or what have OTHERS done for you?  Drop us a comment below and share all of your ideas!

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