His mercies are new every morning. (Lam. 3:-22-23)
Three months have passed, yet the call still haunts me.
“Jen, it’s a brain tumor. It’s Johnny… They think it’s malignant. They are doing surgery tonight.”
As I perched at the edge of our church stage during worship team practice, my brother’s wavering whisper echoed through the phone.
I ran out our sanctuary doors into the dark silence and finished the call.
Desperation, confusion, fear – they all swirled.
This precious fourteen year old nephew of mine is a fourth son.
I’ve seen him nearly every day, as he’s grown up next door to us on our family homestead. He’s my daughter’s twin; inseparable since birth.
Their pain is mine.
I lay prostrate on the floor sobbing. We are no stranger to loss, as my sister in love lost her battle to breast cancer at just 34.
I know the hate of cancer. We understand its devastation.
As my weeping subsided, I returned to the sanctuary to gather my things before leaving for the hospital.
Even in the midst of despair, the Lord chose to reach out and reveal Himself to me personally, profoundly.
Do you see the words on the monitor? Do you know the song we were rehearsing when my brother called?
“Remember Your children. Remember Your Promise… Your children will not be forsaken.”
Only God could orchestrate that.
He knows. He hears. He has not forgotten.
I stayed a few more minutes and chose to declare praises with our team, “Your Grace is Enough is for me.”
Again, the Lord whispered truth in my ear as I wrestled with the reality.
“Trust me, again. I am the same yesterday, today and forever.”
Weeping and praying after a successful surgery
Fast forward three months, and it’s been a whirlwind of God’s goodness.
There are more nuggets of truth than I can attempt to pack in one post, yet I’ve learned critical and practical lessons that I pray changes the way I do LIFE for others in crisis.
As I share, my desire is that it may ignite a fire in you to model for others.
Practical Suggestions to help those in Crisis
Anticipate Needs and Be Specific
If there’s one thing I’ve learned these past few months is that of anticipating needs.
Do not wait. Do not offer. Just do it!
I’ve been challenged, convicted and humbled by those who have modeled true selfless servant hood.
I am the queen of throwing out, “Please let me know if there’s anything you need,” and now I realize that sentiment doesn’t cut it.
In the past, even though my heart ached to help, throwing verbiage came easy, a cop out if you will.
A person in crisis is in survival mode. Don’t place them in the difficult position of having to filter through and access what they need, followed by reaching out and asking. When life is swirling and one is just struggling to maintain, thinking through a list of past offers is nearly impossible and most people will never ask for help.
Moments before brain surgery scheduled. We made the best use of the waiting room – Kissing Cousins
We heard hundreds of people affirm, “I’m praying for you,” but that phrase often gets lost. I don’t want to be one of those that just shares that while passing in the aisle at church. I want to follow through when it really matters.
Instead of mentioning, “I’m praying for you,” take a step further and write out the specific prayer or scripture that the Lord brought to you and give it to your friend, either in person or through email. If a specific scripture comes to mind, take a second and text it to the friend.
In the hours of hospital waiting time, meditating on God’s truth written on good ‘ole fashioned note cards is a life line. In moments of crisis, God hears our groaning, but our weary minds may not be able to bring scripture to the forefront. With a band of prayer warriors standing in the gap and interceding on ones behalf, re-reading scriptures and personal prayers is something pretty special.
Praise and worship music sets the tone in a hospital room, and one thing we forgot was a boom box. Everyone can be encouraged and uplifted while worship plays in the background. Again, it’s another source of God’s truth that helps ward off the doubt.
When moments of crisis hit, the first thing people think of is providing meals. Identifying a family’s need in that area is critical, but often it takes a few days for a Meal Train to get set up.
For my brother’s family, a tangible blessing came instantaneously when their pastor’s wife filled their fridge with all the necessities. A stocked fridge spoke to their love language, and having a few freezer meals set aside specifically for those in need is a goal of mine. Some of our easy favorites are Taco Casserole, Easy Baked Ziti or Crock pot Buffalo Chicken
Another dear friend, who we had not seen in over a year, brought Chick-fil-a to the hospital waiting room for our entire extended family. She anticipated this need and wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. We couldn’t have realized what a need this would fill during surgery time. If she had called and asked, “What can I do for you?” I would have assured her we were just fine.
Hospital Survival Kits
Another saint put together some “emergency bags” for the whole family. I now call them Hospital Survival Kits because she thought of everything in which to survive for a week long hospital stay. Blankets (and a prayer shawl), footies, toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, wipes, deodorant, healthy snacks, protein bars, meals to heat up in the microwave, drinks, and water just begins to touch the surface of what those blessing bags contained. Such a practical idea that anyone can do, but often, we don’t. I want to be that proactive person.
Presence and Practical Help
Just be available. Share your presence, if even for a few minutes.
Don’t assume that you will get in the way or it will be awkward. Each situation is different, but taking time out of your busy schedule to give a quick hug, clean a bathroom, cut the lawn or whisper a word of encouragement ministers to a weary heart above and beyond the appreciation expressed.
This is just a glimpse of ministry towards my brother’s family. I want to be one who proactively anticipates needs like many did for us. My desire is to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but it’s an area in which I am still growing and learning.
Many of you have been in extreme moments of crisis and my desire is to learn from your experience.
Would you please share with us some tangible and practical ways that people ministered to you in times of need?
What spoke love to you?
shared by: Jen Schmidt, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam and Co-host of the Becoming Conference (Join us, Aug. 9,10)Leave a Comment
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
What terrific and concrete ideas for putting our sentiments into ACTION when someone is in crisis. I can’t emphasize enough the point you made of don’t say it…just DO it!! One thing that really ministered to me during a difficult time is when a good friend didn’t say, “I’ll pray for you.” Instead she took my hands and right then and there asked me what she could specifically pray for and then prayed over me. She could put into words what were only groans in my mouth from the Holy Spirit. May others be inspired by your helpful ideas!
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
Taking that moment right then and praying over you – that is a special friend who knows the power of prayer.
When my husband had cancer. It was a horrific blur. We were across the country from all family. We struggled to maintain composure at all levels. Here are some things that just helped tremendously. When I needed to be at the hospital with my husband people offered to babysit our three small children, I came home several times to a perfectly manicured lawn and never knew who did it. Although I have my suspicions due to the pristine condition it was in. People walked our dog. And I can never forget my wonderful neighbors who did whatever I needed. Made me eat breakfast, held my hand, played with my kids, took my laundry.
Thank you for reminding me how blessed I am. It was surreal but God surrounded me with exactly what I needed and I never felt so close to him.
Thank you for the tears of remembrance. I am grateful today for this!
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
Thank you for sharing your experience and giving us more tangible ideas on how to help. It’s so true that you struggle to maintain composure at all levels. People don’t always realize how the little things make SUCH a difference.
When my son was in the hospital for skull reconstruction surgery, we were so blessed by our church and neighbors for all their love and support. One of the men of the church came and prayed for our family for the entire 8 hour surgery. I am so humbled by his gift of prayer. We had neighbors that took our older girls to and from school and kept them until my husband came home each evening from the hospital. I had another neighbor call and asked “what brand of bread do you like, etc.” and she went to the grocery store and filled our fridge for us! We also had a gift bag with essentials, and the things I remember most were the roll of quarters for the vending machine (I would not leave my son’s side to go eat, but would grab something usually late at night) and hand lotion and lip balm. The hospital air seemed to be so drying to my hands!
I would not have made it through that journey without all the love and prayers of so many people.
Thank you for the reminder to be the hands and feet of Jesus! I am very grateful for all the support and love. I truly felt the presence of the Lord deeply during that time in our lives.
I pray the Lord will continue to heal your nephew. He is a very handsome young man.
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
The rolls of quarters for the vending machine is such a great idea as well. I am so glad to hear how surrounded with support you were during your son’s surgery.
Jen in MN says
My friend was just diagnosed with breast cancer at 38. She is strong, and insists that she’s fine, so I’ve been struggling with how to put my heart into action. LOVE the idea of hospital survival kits, that’s my big take away. Also love the idea of writing out prayers/verses for her to read. She’s not a walking-with-the-Lord kind of gal, so hopefully this will show her a piece of Jesus’ heart! Thanks for sharing your story, Jen! 🙂
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
You are so welcome. I pray this opens the door to deeper heart conversation with your friend.
What a powerful and practical post! Some of these ideas are new and I will definitely add them to my list!!!
Would love to know how your nephew is doing!
Another great idea that was given to me years ago, is to drop off paper products at the house…..toilet paper, paper towels, napkins. These are essentials that often go unnoticed until they are out!
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
Yes, paper products is a wonderful idea.
My nephew is doing SO well. His surgery was a miraculous success and he goes in for his MRI tomorrow. Praying that it is clean as a whistle. 🙂
This is the BEST article and a very needed piece of writing for the Body. Although many people are well intentioned in their desire to help amidst crisis, unfortunately many times it gets reduced to unfulfilled offers. I think the more people who can read this article the better; we will all face crisis at some point and we need to know how to support each other!
My husband and I faced a horrific health crisis in 2012. Here are the things (some you mentioned) that really blessed us by our wonderful community:
-Friends and family pledged various amounts of monthly support equalling over $3000 in case lost our jobs. My husband couldn’t work and I needed to care for him so their pooled funds would have kept us afloat during our trial had we lost our jobs (which we didn’t, praise Jesus!)
-Yard work, walking the dog, and cleaning! Forgotten things that aren’t very glorifying but need done all the same
-Bags of overnight needs brought to the hospital. My mom brought me a bag of pajamas, change of clothes, make up, toothbrush, socks, and snacks so I wouldn’t have to go home for a few days. Amazing!
-Any type of meal is helpful! Preferably freezable and always offer to just drop it off. Never expect a long visit with the person in crisis.
-A meal and offer to hang out in the waiting room during surgery. Our best friends would bring meals, games, or books and just be with me in the waiting room while my husband was in the OR. They would talk or be silent.
Such a gift it is to be surrounded by excellent support and love. We are called by Christ to love well and tangibly. Thank you for writing this piece Jen!
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
Thank you for sharing your story and what a wonderful example of your friends being the Body of Christ during your difficult time.
How is your husband doing now?
Our Lord is so clever in making His Word clear to me. Today I’m leading our Vacation Bible School in central CA and the memory verse for today is…”Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. ” (1 John 3:18) Thanking The Lord for successful surgeries and love in motion!!
When my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer one of the most helpful things that people did was take my son who was 7 at the time to do fun things. Sitting in the hospital was hard for him and although he wanted to be there, he also desperately needed a break from it all.
Also, the meals were such a blessing. When people asked I kept saying that I was ok, but finally a friend just decided to bring them anyway. They brought me meals a few times a week and even continued for a while after he passed away. It was such an amazing blessing. To be able to have that time to spend with my husband and son rather than cooking…..
This post was so helpful and right on. My husband’s illness has taught me to be more intentional in serving those in crisis and this is a good reminder to not let that fall to the wayside.
Yes & Amen … we must all remember that we (standing, sitting) hold answers to many of their prayers in the mist of crisis! Another on point post is this!
Thank you Jen! I have so longed to do something practical when crisis hits, yet seem to fail at finding something I could do. Once I saw your hospital emergency kit list, I could immediately see how valuable they are and that you could keep most of these items on hand to pull together in a moment’s notice.
Of course now you’ve got my juices flowing…maybe bags for those undergoing chemo treatments…they often have long stretches at the hospital on treatment days.
Thank you for sharing this!
Jennifer- this is GREAT! So useful. I too have been living with Stage IV breast cancer and have been the recipient of so much abundant service and faith filled encouragement! The one thing I can add for someone like me who has accepted I will be in treatment for good now, is my “angel list.” I have several “middle of the night,” angels. The ones who will run over in their jammies and stay at our house with our kids, so my husband can take me to the er in the middle of the night. We also have our “anytime” emergency babysitters- who will drop what they are doing and come. Its a list filled with people who have offered to clean, cook, organize, pray, chant, sing, etc. Its “Team Vicky,” and they are both my angels and His hands and feet. My most recent need after brain radiation, was for car pool help. Without a word from me, the neighborhood rallied and included my husband and my kids were covered. So grateful! So blessed! Prayers for your nephew~ thank you for encouraging me today~
Carmen Castells Schofield says
Wow, these guidelines and words of encouragement are great! I have reflagged this post on my blog, and hope you approve!
One gift I received during a difficult time in my life was cash. I came home one day and there was a note on my door with a check in side. What a blessing that was. I have always tried to pay it forward. While I might not be able to be as generous as that person was a roll of quarters for vending machines comes in handy.
We have been blessed by gracious acts of hospitality but the one that will never leave our thoughts was when our needs were met by complete strangers. It was only for a brief moment in time. We were involved in a roll over accident with two small children on the busiest highway in our state. By God’s grace, we all walked away from it unharmed but our dogs who were in the car, ran from us. We were able to get the big dog and a car pulled over, handed us a horse lead and said we needed it. She was right, we could not find the leash in the mess. After the mess was cleaned up my husband went to look for our other dog in a hay field. A miniature dachshund. An off duty fire man and a college student, both who just happened to drive by, gave up their next two hours searching for our dog. Our dog was found and they were thanked and went on their way. We never knew their names. These acts were completely unconditional acts of service and have had the biggest impact on us.
When my husband died our years o my DILs family ,who are caterers,said thy would bring food to he house for service at the house. They did everything when it came to the food…setting up table and chairs.
People really want to help and we need to let them.
Thank you for this post, Jen. I think your suggestions for helping those in crisis are practical and helpful. I have a close friend who is journeying through a crisis right now and so I will definitely take this post to heart and make good use of your suggestions! I agree with you, that in my own times of crisis, it was more helpful when friends and family stepped in and helped instead of just saying “I’ll pray for you” or broadly stating “Let me know how I can help.” Those in crisis need tangible encouragement, prayer, and assistance. A big thing that friends/family have done that has helped me most in crisis is not just telling me they’ll pray for me, but offering to pray WITH me when they see me. That has been so touching for me in times of crisis. Thank you again for sharing!
Beth Ann says
Following emergency brain surgery and an extended hospital stay years ago, I received hundreds of cards from friends, relatives, and people from our church who I hadn’t even met yet. Just knowing that these dear people had taken the time to go out of their way to buy a card for me was so uplifting and encouraging. They wrote notes of encouragement inside telling me they were praying for me. It was SO touching!
Kathy Wilshire says
WOW! Reading your post almost brought me to tears. I have had a similar experience. My youngest brother’s son, Caleb, was diagnosed with a brain tumor about 7 1/2 years ago. I vividly remember getting the same phone call: I was at work (school nurse), when my Mom called. I ran to my friend, the school secretary, buried my head in her lap and sobbed. I live in a small suburb of the metroplex; my brother & his family closer to Dallas. While we did not see each other daily as you do, we were all close, getting together often for dinner, birthdays, and of course holidays. Caleb was 8 when diagnosed. Unfortunately, we did not have as happy an ending as you did; Caleb went to heaven about 7 months after diagnosis after 2 surgeries, one round of radiation, and months of chemo.
Nevertheless, we were ministered to mightily during those months. My brother & sister-n-law’s church and Sunday school class did many of the things you suggested. Friends helped get their younger son to school & kept him after school when needed, people brought food, cleaned their house, etc. I was most struck by how my co-workers responded, however. This group of Christian co-workers and I had already been sharing prayer requests, gathering off & on for prayer before or after school, etc. But when Caleb got sick, it was unbelievable. These people didn’t even know my brother or his family, but because they were my family, they went into action, from sending me scriptures, songs, & prayers, to taking up cash to donate and buying restaurant gift cards for me to give to them. Another college friend who makes beautiful quilts made Caleb a special quilt which he kept on his hospital bed. These people even came to the funeral! You have no idea how much that spoke to me, not only of their love for me, but their love for the Lord and their desire to minister to any Christian brother/sister in need. They have continued to do similar things for other staff members/families through the years.
While some of these memories are painful, thank you for the memories of sweet Christian friends putting hands and feet to their faith.
One of the most endearing things that my church family did for me was to have fun with my baldness when I was going through cancer treatment. They had a “hat day” at church one weekend, in honor of me! Yes, I cried! Friends patted my head when my hair began to grow back – made me feel very loved to be touched. Their comfort with me made life more comfortable. We not only talked about “the elephant in the room”, we had a party with it! Such love I have never known. Amen!
These are very thoughtful and practical suggestions, thank-you for sharing them.
Over time I have been blessed with many thoughtful people in my life that have extended gestures of kindness in many ways during times of Family crisis .Those memories will be forever be in my heart.
Here are a just few that wanted to share with you all.
Prayers, setting up a fund for (parking , cafeteria etc.) while @ the hospital with my daughter ,donating airmile points , baking , phone calls,visits ……
These are just a few of them and one act was as special as the next .
I hope to remember to always be the doer and not the sayer from this day forward.
My Daddy passed away from cancer last September. One of the most practical ways that people ministered to me, was to allow me to express my “true” feelings rather than the typical canned answers we often give when people ask how you are doing during a crisis situation. They opened this door for me by HONESTLY sharing their own experiences and emotions which made me feel comfortable to share mine without fear of judgement or ridicule. It was refreshing to let the tears and emotions flow freely, and their genuine empathy and understanding helped me to cope better and grieve faster.
My dad was killed by a hit and run driver in September. The one thing that touched my mom’s heart so much that she still tells almost anyone who hasn’t already heard was how comforted she was by a note she received from a friend of mine whose brother had been killed by a hit and run driver. The note told of prayers lifted up for her (even though my mom is not a believer-she was touched), words of comfort given, tears shared, etc. The fact my mom was so blessed, blessed me also. A simple note, shared experience, shared in love.
What a great practical list! I have been sick for the past 7 months and have been so blessed by people’s actions of love.
Whenever people asked if they could do something for me I would always say its okay. I didn’t need anything. But the true blessings came from the people who just came. Came to give me a hug, listen, and bring flowers or cards or yummy treats. It was there presence that made the biggest impact though!
A couple big blessings from friends have been getting a quilt made for me from my church (I use it all the time and every time I look at it I am reminded of love and prayers from the quilting group) and also a family friend who is a quadriplegic and knows suffering all too well, brought over a wheelchair that is comfy and easy to use (and even cute – turquoise frame and all)! He didn’t ask if I wanted it or needed it. I would’ve said no. That he didn’t have to go through the trouble. But you know, it has been amazing. Brought freedom and comfort and joy!
When my husband was killed inb a car accident, when I lost my first baby when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, what I found the most comforting was when a friend just came to me and sat beside me. They didn’t have to say anything just being there and give me a hug was all I needed to know I was loved. Meals etc were great but just being there made all the difference.
Great and practical suggestions. I can relate to the situation as our 15 yr old son, Nathaniel, had a brain tumor. One of the most memorable and moving things for us happened on the day of his surgery. We were in a large university hospital 3 hours away from our hometown. I was dashing through the hospital cafeteria when I saw a familiar face. Our son’s Sunday School teacher took a vacation day from work and drove over 6 hours just to be at the hospital to pray for Nathaniel all day long during his 7 hour surgery. This dear brother in Christ never intended for us to know he was doing this. It was God’s Providence that I would see him (and Christ through him) in this busy hospital at the highpoint of our crisis.
I will never forget this demonstration of Christ’s love. This man wasn’t family or even a close friend, but he loved the Lord, our son, and us enough to make a real sacrifice of time and money to just be closer to us as he lifted us up in prayer. Amazing Love!
Taylor Arthur says
Thank you so much for this post! My family and I have been through a number of crises in the last five years, and it is so very difficult to ask for help in the midst of them. When we have been grieving or caring for a sick loved one, it has been almost impossible to assess our needs. Instead, it constantly felt that we have been living a life of subsistence, instead of substance.
The great things about these times of crises is that they tend to be the times when Jesus shows up in such a tangible way. Where before I had things planned out, now I have found myself asking for cooked dinners, etc. And God provides!
We have been the most grateful for a meal delivered to the hospital, company at the hospital, loved ones babysitting our preschooler while we have spent weeks in the hospital (not counting all the doctor’s appointments), gift cards to go out to eat while we were in the hospital with our son, and loved ones who have opened up a room/bed for us close to the hospital so that we could take turns getting a good night sleep and having a home cooked meal.
I just posted “How to use the Bible as a tool” http://redvinespirituality.com/?p=529 for those long waits in the hospital. They are enough to drive a mother crazy!
Thanks ever so much for posting this, especially from a mom who has experienced her fair share of crisis. Samuel (our 22 month old) is scheduled for open heart surgery on 7/29, and we will again be spending time in the hospital.
God Bless You,
Tears came to my eyes as I realized just how often I had said “just let me know” and “thoughts and prayers” (which I meant but still…) and as I recalled some special people who ministered to my family in a time of loss and grief in a very practical way. My father was killed in an accident at work, literally he went to work in the morning and did not come home. My mother was left with 5 school-aged kids to meet at the door after school and tell about the death of our father. We did not anticipate that beginning that evening we would have a steady stream of visitors stopping by to bring food, offer sympathy etc. Someone had the foresight to bring a guest book for people to sign – what a treasure later to review and see the many people who cared. One angel on earth came to the house immediately and began cleaning! She knew we would soon be on display for all and house full of kids who had rushed off to school that morning was not ready for company. As it was winter and we had a wood burning fireplace, one man brought us a bunch of cherry wood for the fireplace; that special fragrance will always remind me of his kindness. Of all the people, those three “doers” made the most impact on me and my family.
When my husband died I was just 32, with a 5 year old son. Life changed in an instant. My Sunday School class were Jesus’ hands and feet to me during that sad and difficult time of early widowhood. The ladies bought me a black dress for the funeral, meals were prepared, men mowed the yard, pizza was ordered, the oil changed in my car, and the greatest thing they did was surprise my son and I with Christmas presents (my husband had died right before the holidays). I was so grateful, because I didn’t really feel like or have time to buy gifts that year. I talk about it in this post on my blog.
These are excellent ideas for future use, thanks! When my father died unexpectedly last year we were at a complete loss… His home was far too cluttered to even think of making meals at so my house became home base for food. My best girlfriends called on Day two of our shock and grief and said “we are cooking a turkey – how many people do we need to feed?” and sure enough, after gathering my Mother, my brother and his family, and my own brood, we were served a complete turkey dinner! They even brought wine and dessert and serving dishes and trays. I didn’t have to try to figure out what to put the food in. It was complete and most wonderful. They came – dropped off food – and disappeared like fairy godmothers. It was clearly love in action. I will never forget it and will return that act of love when it is their turn.
My family has been on the receiving end of this type of ministry many times due to my medical history. During a six month hospitalization 20 years ago, a friend from church did my family’s laundry every single week. Such a blessing to my Mom. Jen, thanks for this post. Having always been on the receiving end of this ministry, I truly never realized how empty my offers to “do what ever I can to help” really are. This post is definitely a “keeper!”
Thank you for the great ideas. One of the most practical things done for us when my father died is something I’ve tried to do since. We were given 2 books of stamps for sending out the Thank You cards for for all the flowers, meals, etc. One less thing for us to think about.
We also had someone make a donation to the Gideon’s in my father’s name. That meant a great deal to me.
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful experience with me and everyone that reads your posts.
I haven’t been a crisis like that, but I know lots of people that did. Your proactive suggestions are treasure and I will make sure to share with my friends so that we start a virtuous circle or pro-activeness in assisting people in moments of crisis.
One thing that came to my mind was for families that have small children. It is hard to keep a baby or even little kids in hospitals when they are sick, imagine when they are there because parents need to be there for any reason. One of the best things would be to just take the kids to your home and entertain them so that parents won’t need to worry about them till everything is over.
God bless you for your wonderful job in this blog.
Lisa Spidle says
When my son was in the hospital, folks from church would pick up my other kids and take them to youth group. We live out of town (about 12 miles away) so having people go truly out of their way to serve and minister in this capacity was not only helpful, but humbling. We felt loved.
My son battled cancer for two years. I wrote a lot about how we were helped here: http://www.fiskerellibellies.com/p/life-with-leukemia-story.html .
Over those two years neighbors mowed our yard, friends cared for our girls picking them up from school, helping with homework, providing rides to activities, some brought food. Our Christmas shopping was done by my husband’s coworkers. One young lady cleaned our house while dog sitting.
Just remember that everything that needs to be done at your house needs to be done at the home of the one in crisis. Pick what you’re best at and step up!
I heard over and over again that people just didn’t know how to help and simply stayed away. That response can leave an already hurting family feeling abandoned. So thanks for the glimpse into your experience.
Denise M says
That is a great comment “everything that needs to be done at your house needs to be done at the home of the one in crisis.”
When my husband lost his job (totally different crisis but for those who go through it it is a crisis for sure) people showed up with groceries (had they asked I would have said we were fine) they gave gift cards for groceries & gas, hand me down clothes, they gave us wrapped up gifts for our boys at Christmas time, gave us toothpaste, tp, ziploc bags…things that are sometimes taken for granted can be luxuries at the time of job loss. I would just reiterate that you just do something. Don’t wait don’t ask to see what the need is whatever you can do will be a fill up to their encouragement tanks & will help them to know they aren’t alone.
Nancy Ruegg says
Want to add my gratitude for a great post. I’m going to print and file these tips for that day when I’ll need a refresher course! Thank you, Jen. Also appreciate the additional ideas of commenters.
Such sharing demonstrates one of the strengths of (in)courage: helping one another make a difference within our circles of influence.
Jen, thank you so much for this so very practical list! I know many people mean well when they say “let me know” but when I was in years of chemo, bed rest and then speech and physical therapies with 2 small children, what really helped me was the unsolicited offers to drive our children to school, ballet, choir practice…the food was delivered nightly for nearly a year, and these amazing people helped my children’s lives go on with some degree of normalcy in the midst of all that difficulty. I also appreciate deeply when someone just stops right then and prays with me rather than saying “I will pray…” Holding hands and the power of those prayers went way down deep in my soul, lifting my faith. My mom played me hymns over the phone when I was too weak to even hold it…my husband laid the phone next to my head on the pillow. Blessings to your family!
Mindy Rogers says
What an excellent list!
My husband and I spent a lot of time with my mother-in-law in the hospital before she died and, like you, we learned a lot of these needs the hard way.
One need that I remember is how difficult life was emotionally after the hospital stay and the return home. It is a huge blessing to continue to call, encourage, pray with and visit even when people are “out of the woods” and recovering at home.
Love this post 🙂
Rebecca Barlow Jordan says
Jen, thanks for these wonderful and thoughtful suggestions. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to do in a situation. These are s helpful.
I remember one time I was having surgery and woman from our church came to visit me before the surgery. I knew she was a “prayer warrior,” but my, when she prayed out loud, I think the rafters (or ceiling) of the hospital room shook! Her confident and bold prayer filled me with confidence and reminded me what a powerful God we serve.
What a wonderful blog post. My sister-in-law recently lost her father. He was in the hospital sick for several months before passing. I was one of the “I’ll pray for you” people which for her wasn’t a comfort or “let me know what I can do” . I wish I would have just taken action and done something. Next time I’m in the situation I have a much better idea what to do to be a comfort and help. Thank you.
Beth Williams says
I usually go visit people in the hospital at lunch. I don’t ask just show up & spend a few minutes with them. For my pastor & his wife I made them a few meals and gave them restaurant gift cards to use after her chemo treatments.
I truly love cooking meals for people. For a friend who lost her husband suddenly I cooked a meal and made a few other food items for the family to enjoy. Then later that week I made some cookies and brownies, mostly for the young children.
Another idea is sending a get-well card with words of encouragement written by hand.
Thank you for these wonderful suggestions! God Bless! 🙂
Well done and very helpful. Sometimes we have good intentions but just don’t know what to do to help. I think God can help reveal the needs and what can be helpful too. Thanks for this well thought out post.
Leah Benedict says
My 17-year-old cousin died suddenly two years ago from a brain hemorrhage. He went to bed fine, and never woke up. It was obviously a massive shock to his family. His mother was practically in hysterics and cried all the time for the first few days, and the many meals brought over by neighboring families was an immense relief. Also, the numerous visits to just talk and pray were greatly appreciated. I would like to be prepared to do the same!
Thank you for such wonderful words of advice – please let us know how your nephew is doing. We are praying for him here in Los Angeles.
I pray your nephew is healing. I have a traumatic brain injury that’s put me into decline. In my many hospital visits, I have never received flowers nor notes from the church nor a call how are you. We have a complicated meal sign up board that requires passwords. It’s hard as I’m brain damaged and housebound. The days are long and though its gone on five years, I’m worse not better. No one visits nor drops off a meal even though they know my husband also struggles with post cancer treatment side effects.
What to do?? As in this report. Ask to volunteer for appointment rides. Do you need a few things at the store?? Take then!! Realize its hard for everyone involved.
Terese Smith says
Please post your city and state so someone can reach out to you !
Mary B says
I love your post. Our family went through a lengthy crisis a number of years ago when both of my husband’s parents suffered life threatening illnesses a week apart. We had an 18month old son, I was pregnant & because of the specific care they needed they were in 2 different cities while we lived in a 3rd. For months we were on the road traveling from city to city trying to care for them. Our friends & extended family became our lifeline ~from caring for my son, to providing meals, cutting our grass to providing gas cards. We had friends stop & visit with us who were traveling through town from other areas of the country. Our friends & extended family were the hands & feet of God. My prayer too is that I will be that for someone else.
When my husband died at home suddenly several years ago, I had to go 100+ miles to pick up my daughter. When I finally got back to my home, 3 ladies from my church were in the house cleaning the room he died in, washing my dishes and cleaning the bathrooms. Another group had made a basket with scriptures, a praise cd, words of comfort and other things. It was beyond anything I could have asked for or thought of while deep in grief. It was such a blessing to us when we needed it and didn’t even know we needed it. That is Jesus with skin on. I only hope I can be the same blessing to others.
“Jesus with skin on”. I like that.
Well written and helpful article for practical ways we can help a family in crisis. Thank you. I would love an update on your sweet nephew. Praying that he is doing well. Love his smile. I’m a mom of four boys myself.
I’m a cancer survivor myself, and I think the greatest help for me during my illness was the outpouring of love and support, and definitely prayer. When so many are praying for you, it is a tangible feeling of being lifted and carried and comforted. Very difficult to describe in words, but it is a wonderful, calming feeling. Those prayers really do matter.
Marty Walden says
My sister died unexpectedly at the age of 53 right after we got the 3 children we adopted, 2 of which were still babies. I had a church member offer to stay with the little ones while we did the everything connected with the funeral. It was a huge blessing and gift.
Hi friends and family. Lost my hubby of 38 years on Nov.19th, 2012, just a week and a day after his 63rd birthday. Many friends, family and church (not only mine but his sister’s as well) members reached out with offers of help, love and sympathy. Many offers were right on time and my sister in love (his only sibling and only immediate family left as BOTH his parents passed in 2011) was a GOD-send. However, one thing that I am STILL drawing comfort from is a small book a friend and former co-worker gave me. A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. See, she lost her husband in 2010 and understood a bit of how I was feeling. Having someone who has “been there/done that” really DOES help you know that you’re not alone even though it feels like it. And like the article said, people just DOING and not asking WHAT can I do was TREMENDOUS! Our 2nd granddaughter was born just 2 weeks ago and she looks JUST like my sweet hubby so I got a piece of him back.Thank You Lord.
Karen Rhodes says
A friend’s husband was told 20 months ago that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and no surgery or chemo would cure it–just help with pain and perhaps give him a few more months of life. She started sharing very openly & honestly her feelings, her fears–everything. I asked her about writing a book about their journey. It was just released this week–a small book called “Oil of Joy-How to Support Those Battling Cancer”. Actually it’s good for those facing any serious illness. It’s only 64 pages long, but full of what to say, what not to say, what to do, what not to do, etc. Wonderful book that our Stephen’s Ministry director read and endorsed.
People all over the world were praying for her husband. She set up a prayer group for ____ on Facebook, and people responded. So did the Lord. Last night her husband shared his testimony of healing at our international convention. God has worked a miracle in his life and he has been healed here on earth. We know sometimes the healing happens in heaven. This is a great blog. Thanks for sharing and allowing us to share too.
Two times, we’ve been ministered by our church friends:
When our 6-wk-old baby daughter landed in the hospital (our 4th) with suspected meningitis, I had to stay with her, of course. A dear friend came to “visit” on the 3rd day of our stay, and she babysat the baby so I could go in the hospital bathroom & take a real shower. Priceless!
When my mother-in-law was dying in the hospital, we were there a lot, as you can imagine. My husband was there all the time, & I was there for hours every night. Our youth minister took our 4 kids (not all of whom were youth yet) out for pizza & a time of “hanging out.” While it wasn’t a big deal, money or time wise, it gave them a chance to be “normal” for a while, without the specter of death hanging over them. Again, priceless!
Roll of quarters for machines, cash or gift cards to nearby restaurants, a bag of snacks for the waiting room (crackers, cookies protein bars, etc.), cards they can use for their cell phone bill (or cash to pay it), everyone forgets their cell phone charger I think, take pets to boarding if needed, offer to sit at the hospital so they can get away, bring change of clothes and toiletries from home, take food to hospital if you know they won’t leave.
All of these are great suggestions and convicting ones at that! The only thing I’ll add is that breakfast is often a forgotten meal for families in crisis. When my father died, we had abundant food (for which we were extremely grateful!), but figuring out breakfasts with a refrigerator full of casseroles was a challenge. Since then, I’ve taken cinnamon rolls or other breakfast items to families in similar situations.
Breakfast is a great idea. When a friend miscarried a few years ago, other moms took turns taking dinner to her family for a few weeks. When it was my turn I took along muffins for the next mornings breakfast instead of a dessert to go with dinner. Desserts had been piling up from every night and she said later that having something they could easily grab for breakfast was really helpful.
Mary O'Connor says
One week ago, we got a call that my mother had suffered a brain bleed and was being placed in hospice care. Most of the family is from out of state and had to travel to be with mom.
My sister’s friend picked her up at the airport, waited for her lost bag, drove her three hours to the nursing home and then stayed and sang to mom.
I had no appetite when I arrived in Va from NY but my sister-in-law brought me chicken soup and a baguette which ministered to my soul as much as to my turned-upside-down stomach.
Others are helping to arrange a meal after the funeral – not so easy to do when no one is from the area any more.
Calls and offers to do my work for me in my absence provide great relief.
Information regarding typical things that happen at end-of-life has been given and really eases our minds.
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
Mary – I pray that these last weeks with your mother are filled with some special moments. I know the pain must be overwhelming and your emotions must be swirling, but I know that the Great Comforter will meet you during this time of need.
Please let us know how you are doing, and if you have specific prayer requests that we can remember.
Kathy @ In Quiet Places says
I am in the middle of a crisis right now, my sister and her husband were killed in a car wreck on Sunday afternoon in Kentucky, I live in Texas but am in Kentucky now trying to keep it together to help my niece prepare a funeral for both of her parents.
They are Christians so I do have that peace, and I do have God’s peace and I trust Him and I love Him and I do know Him as Comforter – yet pain is pain but I know He knows exactly how I feel and that gives me permission to not be too hard on myself as I find myself totally losing my patience at every turn.
Kathy, I am so sorry for your loss.
Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam) says
oh Kathy – I want to pray for you now.
Lord, wrap your arms around this precious family. Comfort Kathy and her niece and bring people to walk with the niece after Kathy leaves. The pain is so very fresh and the reality is devastating to those behind. Help them remember that they are dancing on streets of gold this very minute.
Lord, bless these people. Keep them in your hands from this day forward. In the name of your son Jesus. Amen
Kathy @ In Quiet Places says
Thank you for these kind words and prayers, God is so good to us to meet our every need, I did write a little about it today in this post on In Quiet Places called “Look and See”
It’s amazing how the Lord works in and through everything! I’m so sorry for all you guys have been through, but am so thankful He has been making Himself known through it. The most common phrase I hear from people outside a tragedy is: “I just don’t know what to say.” I feel the same way many times and I find it paralyzing which leads to feelings of guilt. I found this article very helpful: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407. Not sure if you’ve seen it or not. Thank you for the way you share your heart – it is a reminder of God’s love for me.
In September 2011, I was on a ventilator for nine days, the day that the tubes were removed it was between visiting times and my husband and two daughters were down the street at a house owned by the hospital and where they had a room for the two months that I was inpatient. Anyway, someone dropped the ball and didn’t call for them as they had requested to be there when the tube was removed. And then God steps in–I have two very close cousins and after not being able to hear from me that day just decided to drive the 30+ miles to see about me and my family–and as they ask at ICU about me the person at the desk let them in to see me, when I saw them I thought I was seeing things, but I know now that God put them in just that place when I needed to see a loving face, they then called my husband and daughters to tell them they were standing beside me and I was talking to them–they had such mixed emotions (upset and happy) but we all truly know that God’s hands were there that day. And I am alive and well due to the constant prayers of wonderful loving friends and family!!! People fed my family and they fed me after I was back at home, called and came to take care of us. I am humbled to this day!!!
I am so thankful for this post. Just found out last week that my sister has breast cancer. She has two small children and is not a believer. Have been praying about specific ways to help her beyond emotional support and praying for her. This was such a good refresher. Our dad died of cancer 15 years ago and we’ve had numerous other family members battle cancer, yet I still needed the reminder to FIND things to do rather than wait to be told what the person needs. They just don’t often have the emotional energy to coordinate all the practical tasks of life that still need to be taken care of. Praying for your nephew. What a blessing in the midst of cancer to be surrounded by a loving family.
I love these ideas. One thing I’d like to mention is many, if not all, of the ideas could be adapted to other situations/crises not just serious illness/hospital stays etc. Many folks are suffering from job loss, foreclosure on their homes and so forth. I have seen an appalling lack of care, concern, & empathy displayed by many in our local church community for people in crisis like impending homelessness almost as if they think it may be catching or I don’t know what.
Pat Holland says
Great post. So practical. Thank you for the insight!
When my sister was diagnosed with leukemia she had less than a week to get things in order before a long hospital stay. As she sat saying what will I do about this and that her friend grabbed a notebook and started writing down what had to be done. I went over the next day, bought a giant calendar and an empty notebook. We scheduled out the weeks to come and called people to help in different ways. A team of 6 to 10 people were scheduled to stay at there home and help over the next 4 weeks. We then filled her notebook with labeled dividers with sections for doctor numbers, a power of attorney, insurance information, people who could help and their contact information, etc. I share this to say if you have the gift of organizing this is a wonderful way to help someone who can’t even begin to function. I also share this to say I came home after that first week with her and set up my own notebook with a section divided off for each member of my family and my pets. Important numbers, schedules, etc were entered. That one event really encouraged me to get
my ducks in a row. The other help to my sister was having someone there as a go between to answer calls, receive meals, etc. As much as they wanted to talk to every single person that called or came by, it just wasn’t possible. It also helped to have that person set up a care page And update it for the family early on so people could stay updated. Thank you for sharing your practical tips.
When my father died this past April, I was on the road relocating from NC to Kansas. I got the call in St. Louis. And believe it or not, my friends leaving messages of encouragement on Facebook carried me through the long hours of driving ahead of me. These days people stay in touch through Facebook, and we tend to forget what a great tool that is to stay connected. And really, in moments of crisis connection is truly what we crave.